In a nutshell
Sporting stunning scenery with a view of both ocean and snowcapped mountains, Kaikoura is set between Christchurch and Picton on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s a hugely appealing area for travellers with an admirable sustainability ethos – it’s the only destination in New Zealand to be certified sustainable by EarthCheck, and has now reached Platinum level. In November 2016, the area experienced an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude which led to building destruction and road closures, cutting the whole area off for over a year.
Why travellers should come
Kaikoura is a great place to understand and encounter the Maori culture. It also offers a huge variety of marine life you can watch and encounter in various ways, from sperm and humpback whales and orcas to dusky dolphins, sharks, seals and albatross, and is the only place in the world you can see Hutton’s Shearwater, the endangered seabirds that are endemic to the area.
Travellers also come here for great surfing (check out the surf breaks at Mangamaunu in particular) as well as fishing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Anyone into biking and hiking can take advantage of the varied landscape, which ranges from the heights of Mt Fyffe, Seaward and Inland Kaikoura Ranges (up to 2600m) to the depths of the Kaikoura Canyon (1200m) only 500m off the coast.
What’s sustainable about it?
Kaikoura diverts a high 73% of its waste from landfill, recycling much of it instead, and aims to reach 100% no landfill in time – first, it needs to get back to its pre-earthquate levels. Recycling residents must now pay to dump their rubbish at landfill, there are recycling bins throughout town, and an annual trash fashion show when local residents create ingenius fashion out of rubbish. Almost 50% of the district area is protected, either as part of Department of Conservation land or in private covenants.
Marine operators like Whale watch, Dolphin & Albatross Encounter and Seal Swim take every measure to ensure the species are not disturbed or stressed when they are viewed by the general public. Local community groups such as Huttons Shearwater Charitable Trust and Encounter foundation do continual good work for the local wildlife and environment, and Kaikoura District Council and the community support other local environmental groups such as Te Korowai o te tai o Marokura, which advocates for the Kaikoura coastal and marine environment with a mission of ‘more fish for the future’.
What are its challenges?
Being cut off for over a year following the 2016 earthquake was a huge threat to an area whose economy relies on tourism, and it’s still recovering. The Hospo Project: Feeding the Village People enabled 22 businesses to stay open while the roads were still closed by providing catering to road workers. Travellers can now do their bit by visiting Kaikoura and supporting local businesses and tour operators. Consider buying a native tree with Trees for Travellers when you travel there, to offset your own carbon too.
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