Queenstown looks to become world’s first carbon zero destination

New Zealand's premier tourism and incentive travel region is aiming to be the greenest by 2030.

Destination Think has been working on the strategy with the Queensland Lakes District Council.
Destination Think has been working on the strategy with the Queensland Lakes District Council. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/naughtynut

Queenstown Mayor, Glyn Lewers, recently announced the bold ambition of being carbon zero by 2030 to industry and local stakeholders, citing strong support and enthusiasm from the wider community had provided permission to embark on the ambitious journey.

The strategy is being carefully defined to include aviation, both flights into and from the district, and local transport. It is also firmly committed to removing carbon and not using offsetting as a solution.

Following the announcement international destination management expert Rodney Payne, CEO of Destination Think, said being the first tourism destination in the world to commit to being carbon neutral by 2030 bodes well for the future of New Zealand’s tourism and business events sectors.

“It starts to create momentum and build a market that gives investors’ confidence,” Payne said. “We’re going to put our collective might around solving this massive existential problem and the time is now and the first mover advantage is massive.

“Queenstown Lakes has put their hand up to say we’re ready to be that testbed, we’re ready to be that first adopter of new innovations to achieve it. That builds a reputation for the place that is going to stimulate all kinds of economic growth and help diversify the economy as well as doing something that’s really powerful.”

Destination Think has been working on the strategy with the Queensland Lakes District Council and other key stakeholders including Destination Queenstown chief executive Mat Woods and Lake Wānaka Tourism chief executive Tim Barke. Input is also being received from Kāi Tahu and the Department of Conservation.

As one of the most pristine tourism destinations in the world, the goal through the new strategy is for it to remain so, with Queenstown to continue to be able to remain popular for tourism and business events but with less impact or indeed zero impact on the region and its environment.

Shotover Jet is developing an electric boat.
Shotover Jet is developing an electric boat.

Already, innovations are taking place in Queenstown, with the popular Shotover Jet company developing a prototype electric jet boat, and plans to develop a carbon neutral fuel source for the TSS Earnslaw – an historic steamship that transports tourists on Lake Wakatipu daily.

Destination Queenstown chief executive Mat Woods said he can envision visitors arriving into Queenstown on electric or hydrogen powered planes, getting to their accommodation on hydrogen or electric buses, renting an electric vehicle and moving around town on foot, e-scooter or bicycle.

“Many operators in the district have already built important environmental and sustainable processes into their businesses,” he said.

On the ground, Ngai Tahu is producing the world’s first electric jet boat prototype for its Shotover Jet fleet; Headwaters Eco Lodge (previously called Camp Glenorchy) is the first visitor accommodation facility in the world to achieve the Living Building Challenge Petal certification for net-positive energy, net-positive water and an approach to beauty that inspires the human spirit; and Ziptrek Ecotours is Queenstown’s first carbon-neutral tourism business.

The scope of the entire strategy will be announced in March.