Tawharanui Regional Park open sanctuary visitor survey : a study of visitor characteristics, their knowledge of and attitudes towards the proposed open sanctuary : a 152.800 thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Management at Massey University
The loss of biodiversity has been described as the most pervasive environmental threat facing New Zealand today. The significant historical losses of native flora and fauna, and ongoing losses which continue to occur, are being addressed through ecological restoration efforts carried out on offshore islands, and on the mainland ('mainland islands' or 'open sanctuaries'). Such restoration projects aim to restore native habitat and populations of indigenous species through targeting the biggest threat to our native species' survival: introduced pests such as possums, rats, mustelids and others. For conservation efforts such as mainland islands to succeed in the long term, having community understanding and support is invaluable. It is becoming more and more recognised that these 'social' aspects to conservation are as important as their biological counterparts. Research in this area is known as Human Dimensions Research, which is designed to not only educate and inform, but also to allow stakeholders and resource managers the opportunity for dialogue and understanding. The Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Visitor Survey was research designed on this basis, to ascertain what visitors to the park knew about the proposed open sanctuary at Tawharanui, and to gauge their level of understanding and attitude towards it. In addition, relative levels of support for the pest control methods proposed were investigated. The survey method involved 302 structured face-to-face interviews carried out over a six-week period. The results showed that only a small percentage of visitors to Tawharanui knew about the plans for the open sanctuary, but that a vast majority supported the proposal. A number of useful trends were identified, such as the result that although people supported the proposed open sanctuary at Tawharanui, their support appeared to be reliant upon the continued open access to Tawharanui and freedom for recreational activities. Secondly, visitors to Tawharanui appeared to be relatively uninformed about conservation issues, thus the need for education about and advocacy for conservation, in particular the open sanctuary, was recognised. In addition, people's concerns about aspects of the proposal were also highlighted. These included a fear by some that the open sanctuary would attract greater numbers of visitors to the park, which might negatively impact upon the scenic nature and feeling of remoteness that many visitors go to Tawharanui to enjoy. A further concern identified was the strong aversion in a large segment of the population towards aerial drops as a means of pest control. This result also signifies the need for a greater focus on educating the public about conservation, and the methods employed for reaching those objectives.