People living and working on Waiheke Island and Aotea Great Barrier Island are being asked to get involved with shaping the future of the islands as a visitor destination. 

Auckland Unlimited, in partnership with the Local Board and Mana Whenua, is leading the development of destination management plans for each of the islands.  

A series of surveys are being released this week asking locals about their views on tourism, what they think is working, any concerns they may have and what they would like to see happen for the future.  

This will be followed by workshops taking place on Waiheke Island on 12/13 July and on Aotea Great Barrier Island on 15/16 July. 

The workshops will provide an opportunity to consider the findings from the surveys and will cover topics such as sustainability, community social licence, product development, marketing and promoting the island. It will be the chance to test new ideas and options to help guide the development of the destination management plan.  

Separate sessions will also be held with the Local Board, Mana Whenua and tourism organisations along with workshops set aside for industry operators, specific interest groups and the wider community. Later local boards will work with Auckland Unlimited to develop public feedback opportunities for their areas for the draft plans 

Auckland Unlimited Programme Manager Annie Dundas says both islands have a unique set of challenges and opportunities when it comes to tourism and require separate plans specific to these needs.  

“Where Waiheke has felt a noticeable drop in visitation from a lack of international visitors, Great Barrier Island has experienced a surge of domestic visitors coming and putting pressure on the island’s fragile infrastructure.  

“There has been a growing concern among locals about the impacts of over tourism and the pressure it puts on local infrastructure, the environment and community,” she says.  

“It’s the opportune time to develop long-term visitor strategies for these islands to provide a plan for how to actively manage the impact of visitation in a more sustainable way before the borders fully reopen.  

“We want to ensure the end result provides robust destination management plans for Waiheke and Great Barrier Island outlining the benefits and effects of tourism, identifies ways to work together to better manage these impacts and what improvements can be made to attract higher value tourists who will spend more money and time on the islands.”   

Waiheke Local Board Chair Cath Handley is looking forward to hearing from the community about where they want to see the future direction of tourism on the island head.  

“So many of our local businesses and tourism operators have been hit hard by the loss of visitors to Waiheke as a result of COVID-19 impacts, whereas previously the island had been straining under the pressures of too much tourism at peak times,” she says.  

“By having a destination management plan in place for Waiheke Island we can develop a blueprint which takes a more sustainable, and indeed regenerative approach to how we manage and attract visitors in a way that honours our environment and maintains the island life we love.” 

Destination Great Barrier Island (DGBI) has been campaigning for the development of a destination management plan for the island and is very aware of the need to take a sensitive approach to growing tourism numbers as it has limited opportunities to provide additional new services.  

DGBI Chair Derek Bell says Aotea is completely off-grid so all electricity must be generated by costly on-site power generation and the cost of freight and access makes it more expensive than mainland NZ both for living and for setting up a business.  

“Nevertheless, we need to act now with the resident and visitor populations increasing because of the island’s spectacular landscapes, beaches, taonga, welcoming community and the opportunity to get away from the daily pressures of city living,” he says 

“We hope this work heralds a new era of planning around tourism in the Auckland region, where the community can play a leading role in agreeing what the right capacities are for hosting visitors in a way that is not detrimental to the island.” 

The destination management plans will align with the overarching Destination AKL 2025 Strategy which was launched in May 2018 which identified destination management at its core along with industry-wide collaboration to manage the visitor economy in a way that would leave Auckland better off economically, socially, culturally and environmentally.  

Following the development of the destination management plans for Waiheke Island and Great Barrier Island the intention is that these plans will be used as a template for Auckland Unlimited to use with the other regions heavily impacted by visitors within the wider Auckland region in the future.   

For Aotea Great Barrier Island, residents will be able to complete the survey in person when they attend the health centre over 18 and 19 June for their COVID-19 vaccinations.  

The surveys will also be distributed online to Waiheke Island and Aotea residents and followed up with workshops.  


Waiheke Island  

Venue – Local Board Offices, Ostend, Waiheke Island 

Dates – 12th and 13th July 2021  

Great Barrier Island  

Venue – Claris Conference Centre  

Dates – 15th and 16th July 2021   

For further information please contact or register by email Graeme Osborne at  

Notes for the editor 

The Destination AKL 2025 strategy which was launched in May 2018 can be read  

Stafford Strategy has been engaged to develop the destination management plan and a template for use with the other regions heavily impacted by visitors within the wider Auckland region.   

Stafford Strategy has been selected to complete this work due to its experience in destination management activity, including its vital role in the development of the Destination AKL 2025 strategy.    

By partnering with local stakeholders, this project will enable local ownership of each plan and its implementation, as well as act as a pilot for Auckland Unlimited to work from on other regions in Auckland, including regions like Matakana and Franklin. 

The current budget for creating destination management plans for Waiheke and Great Barrier Islands, and a template to be used with other regions in the future, is $90,000, with 50% of this funding provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme (STAPP). 

For further information please contact 

Anika Forsman
Communications, Auckland Unlimited M +64 220261130 


About us: Auckland Unlimited is Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s economic and cultural agency committed to making our region a desirable place to live, work, visit, invest and do business. 

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