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Sustainable Southland

Welcome to Southland — Nau mai, haere mai ki Murihiku! Let’s take care of this place together.

Image: Hump Ridge Track, Southland.

Who hasn’t returned from holiday in need of a holiday, just to recover from the bustle, stress and, dare it be said, carbon footprint headache? Well, travelling to Murihiku Southland — a veritable haven for those who are passionate about nature and sustainability — is proving to be an exception. Located on the edge of Te Waipounamu, the breathtaking region is renowned for its diverse range of stunning landscapes, from rugged coastlines to lush rainforests, and let’s not forget the incredible night skies. But what truly sets this extraordinary place apart is its commitment to preserving the natural environment, making it the perfect destination for authentic and meaningful travel.

Exploring nature with purpose is at the heart of the Sustainable Southland journey with around 60 per cent of the region protected as a conservation estate, including both Rakiura National Park and Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to a huge diversity of wildlife, including the endangered pahu Hector’s dolphins, Tawaki Fiordland crested and hoiho yellow-eyed penguins, and kakapo, Southland is committed to protecting the essential habitats of vulnerable species. Southland’s passion for sustainability runs deep, with stewardship of the land, water, and night sky ensuring protection for generations to come.

And the region is committed to becoming even more sustainable over time. Seeing value in a regenerative future, Great South, Southland’s Regional Development Agency, works with operators and businesses with a vested interest in taking a proactive approach to climate change risks.

What truly sets this extraordinary place apart is its commitment to preserving the natural environment, making it the perfect destination for authentic and meaningful travel.

Wild Fiordland.
Hoiho yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay.
Mason Bay Dunes, Stewart Island. Mason Bay’s main appeal lies in its significance as home to the highest population base of kiwi in the world. With some luck these shy, nocturnal birds can be viewed in their natural environment.

Not only is it essential for businesses to become climate-resilient and work towards the New Zealand Government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050, there are considerable benefits to communities now and in the long term. There is increasing demand for more mindful and climate conscious travel experiences, too. Whether you embrace a slow travel mindset with activities like walking or cycling, map mindful itineraries to immerse yourself in local communities, or travel high into the skies — by plane or stargazing with a telescope — Southland invites visitors to be a part of a journey of care for people, place, and culture.

Support is on hand for operators with tailored sustainability programmes underway, from calculating the carbon footprint of businesses to information webinars on electric vehicle use. 

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Southland is bringing a sustainability lens to every kind of travel experience on offer, whether it be food, drink, seasonal activities, events or where you stay. Many accommodations, restaurants, and attractions are working to improve their social, cultural, and environmental impact while reducing their carbon footprint. They have adopted eco-friendly practices and are showcasing local fare and a variety of ocean or paddock-to-plate options. 

Embark on guided walking tours with Trips & Tramps in Fiordland National Park, soar above the fiords with Wings & Water, or dive deep with Shark.

Experience in Bluff. Alternatively, explore eco-tourism activities such as kayaking and experience the region at a slower pace to truly connect with the natural environment and the people who call Southland home. For tour operators like Nigel Humphries, who co-owns Envy Experiences, obtaining ‘climate positive’ certification is about investing in sustainability and sharing the benefits with visitors and locals alike. Additionally, the region has plenty of charging points, making electric vehicle options easily accessible and supported.

Nikki Ladd of Bluff-based Shark Experience, which is on a sustainability journey, recalls a Finnish man who saw a great white shark in Foveaux Strait. “He’s gone home with a commitment to our message, being good to the ocean. You can carry that message a long way,” she says a bit watery-eyed. Southland is listening to what visitors, locals and operators want, weaving a vision for a sustainable future into a wider strategy that not only benefits the environment but also has wide-ranging ripple.

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