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Regional parks attract 1.7 million visitors in a year

Press Release – Greater Wellington Regional Council
The love affair with Greater Wellington region’s parks and forests keeps growing, with a Greater Wellington Regional Council survey recording more local visitors than ever before.

The survey reveals that people from throughout the region made a total of more than 1.7 million visits to our regional parks in the last 12 months – up 4% from 2017.

“Last year’s bumper summer may have contributed to this result, but we’ve also put a huge amount of energy into making our parks more accessible to more people over the years,” says Parks Portfolio Leader Cr Prue Lamason. “Better tracks, signposting and interpretation have combined to deliver a better experience.

“Not only are more people visiting regional parks, they are liking what they find in them. The survey shows that 95% of people surveyed expressed a high level of satisfaction.”

Respondents say they appreciate the sense of freedom offered by the parks, as well as the chance to relax and get away from city living without leaving the region.

Converting the volume of visits to visitor numbers is difficult due to repeat visits, but the scale of the numbers suggests a significant and increasing proportion of locals are taking to the parks. However, 29% of respondents said they had visited at least one of the regional parks for the first time in the previous 12 months.

Queen Elizabeth Park was the most visited park (31% of people visited in the last 12 months) – up seven percent from last year, followed by the Hutt Valley’s Kaitoke Regional Park and the Hutt River Trail (both at 29%).

Where people visit is driven by proximity. Prime picks per regional residents are: Upper Hutt (Kaitoke Regional Park), Lower Hutt (Hut River Trail), Porirua (Whitirieia Park), Kapiti (Queen Elizabeth Park). Fewer Wellington City residents make it into the regional park network, however, with Queen Elizabeth park most popular, probably for day trips.

“This summer we’re going to make a real effort to attract people from Wellington city into the parks network which, in reality, is only half an hour away for most people. We suspect they don’t know what they are missing,” says Prue Lamason.

Walking and bush walking were the most popular activities (75%); with 48% enjoying family outings, recreation, picnics and barbecues; 24% mountain biking or cycling; 16% walking or running with their dogs and 12% camping.

Family activities in the parks increased 10% from the previous year. However, horse riding, fishing and hunting, driving (4WD and trail biking) have all decreased.

The biggest reasons respondents gave for not visiting the parks were ‘lack of time’ and ‘other commitments’. The ‘weather’ was cited less as an influence for not going to a park this year – only 2% compared with 9% last year.

“We use this research to improve our parks for our visitors,” says Cr Lamason. “We can already see the benefits of having this research as we continue to improve the activities available and access to the parks.”

The full research report is available at http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/Park-News/2018-GWRC-Parks-Survey-Report.pdf.

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