Kaikoura - New Zealand’s southern whale watching capital - has become the first destination in the world to achieve gold in a new global green benchmark for community sustainability efforts.
The Gold Community certification, awarded to Kaikoura by EarthCheck - which represents Green Globe in the Asia Pacific region - is further recognition of New Zealand’s world-leading sustainable tourism credentials.
EarthCheck promotes and monitors sustainability practice in the travel and tourism industry, and it is the first time that gold certification has been awarded to a community rather than to a facility such as a resort.
The award is the result of work carried out by the Kaikoura District Council since 1999 when the local body adopted the EarthCheck Sustainable Communities Program which applies rigorous environmental standards across a range of indicators.
EarthCheck provided the council with a framework to reduce the environmental impact of the community’s activities upon the increasingly popular tourist destination.
The small community is "immensely proud" to have gained such global recognition, says Kaikoura District Planner and Green Team leader Rachel Vaughan.
The award was a demonstration of government, private sector and local communities working together to achieve significant environmental benefits, Vaughan said.
Whale Watch Kaikoura
It’s not the first time that the little South Island town has been the recipient of a global sustainability award.
Local tourism company, Whale Watch Kaikoura - which annually takes around 100,000 visitors whale watching on the Pacific Ocean - has several international awards. In 2010, it was awarded the Tourism for Tomorrow Community Benefit Award recognising best practice in sustainable tourism.
Whale Watch Kaikoura chief operating officer Kauahi Ngapora describes the latest award as "a fantastic accolade for the entire community and an enormous achievement for all the team at the Kaikoura District Council."
"Tourism is a key economic driver for our local community and it is the environment and wildlife that underpin this industry. This award further demonstrates our community’s commitment to the environment and Kaikoura’s place as New Zealand’s leading eco-tourism destination," Ngapora said.
Kaikoura’s spectacular scenery and natural beauty attract close to 800,000 visitors annually so without careful management, the constant influx of travellers could have an adverse impact on the land and marine ecosystems.
But Kaikoura residents shared a common desire to protect nature’s bounty and preserve it for future generations, so they adopted a programme of initiatives to help guide everyday activities.
The EarthCheck environmental management system measures, monitors and manages impacts of Kaikoura’s activities in environmental legislation, biodiversity, usage, conservation and management of resources, and waste reduction.
The result was reduced waste and energy consumption that was significantly above EarthCheck’s global best-practice.
As a result of this achievement, Kaikoura will feature in a new television series documenting 13 sustainable travel destinations. It is scheduled to air during 2012 on the Discovery Travel and Living channel to a projected audience of 300 million people.
Above and beyond
EarthCheck is used by travel and tourism organisations around the world - including ACCOR, InterContinental and Langham hotels - to validate their carbon claims and guide sustainability initiatives.
Many New Zealand tourism operators and accommodation providers are involved in the programme.
EarthCheck chief executive Stewart Moore says New Zealand organisations "have surpassed the country’s 100% Pure promise and gone beyond green to bring about measurable change."
"They have reduced pressure on natural resources and can rightly be considered examples of world’s best practice in tourism," Moore said.
EarthCheck Certification is used by the travel and tourism industry to validate carbon claims and guide sustainability initiatives. It is the largest environmental benchmarking, certification and management solution in use by this industry.
EC3 Global has certified more organisations than any other, and has over 1100 clients in more than 65 countries.
EarthCheck complies with the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) greenhouse gas protocol, and the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) 14064 range of standards for greenhouse gas accounting.
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