Unfortunately, Rodney could not be here to present an overview of the results of his 2007 Masters thesis titled: Alpine Stewardship: towards zero-waste mountaineering activities in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park (AMCNP). Rodney is currently waiting to become a first-time Dad and trying to juggle this responsibility with his PhD field work in Sagarmatha (Mt Everest) National Park, Nepal. Rodney has asked me to say thanks to the organizers of this event, and for the ability to give an overview of various aspects of his research.
AMCNP is NZ’s premier alpine environment. It is unquestionably one of the most dramatic and spectacular national parks in the world. This is represented in its World Heritage Status. More than a third of the Park is covered in permanent snow and glacial ice and out of the 27 mountains in NZ over 3000 metres, 22 are in the national park, Aoraki/Mount Cook being the highest at 3755 metres. This landscape is significant in cultural, natural and recreational terms for many New Zealanders both Pākehā and Māori, and also for the many international tourists that visit each year. The red line marks the parks boundary, which is 70,696 hectares, and the yellow line marks the tōpuni region of the park. The tōpuni region is important to note here. It is an area set aside by the NZ Govt that represents the jewel in the crown of Ngāi Tahu’s (Māori tribe) landscape. By gazetting this area the NZ govt has a legislative commitment to protect impacts on NT’s cultural values. Inappropriate waste disposal like what the late GBE highlights is very offensive to Ngai Tahu.
Quite apart from the underlying issues of sustainability of mountaineering activities within the Park, there is also the important fact that NZ trades heavily on its ‘clean and green - 100% pure’ image, if this perception was to change as a consequence of an increasing number of witnesses to the degradation of this ‘pristine’ environment it could damage the NZ brand. This image is in the Hooker Valley in the Park. Just to the right of the photo past the eroding scree slope is a sub alpine non-designated camping area in AMCNP called the “playing fields” where GBE describes the scene in 2006. Rodney outlines - It has been claimed that few countries have such a pronounced interest in mountain-based adventure tourism as NZ. If this is true then such interest is not matched by a correspondingly high level of monitoring and evaluation of the adverse impacts such activities have on the surrounding environment. Monitoring and evaluation is crucial in trying to find the right balance between provision for visitors and protecting the qualities of heritage or naturalness that visitors most value.
So just to highlight the key problems of inappropriate waste disposal in AMCNP: cultural, aesthetic, environmental, and health. The issue is becoming distressingly noticeable to late summer mountaineers. After the snows melt, the frozen ‘brown lumps’ and other waste is left sitting on the top of the ground. As the weather warms these brown lumps they thaw and rippen along with the rest of the landscape. Many may believe that a small amount of human feaces and rubbish in such a vast landscape is of little consequence considering the potential systemic impacts of climate change on this landscape, and they are probably right. However, it’s the cumulative effect of hundreds of such small instances where a much larger problem emerges. Why did I get involved in seeking practical solutions to this issue? I am a mountaineer, as a mountaineer I am part of the solution. And, when I stand on stand on the summit of Aoraki (as this photo depicts) I celebrate the conservation of this part of Aotearoa/NZ, which David Brower nicely outlines.
DOC realizes the issues w/ inappropriate waste disposal. In September 2004 they introduced the ‘poo pot’. (It is important to note that carry out containers have been used on the Colorado River since 1979!) However, as Erik (Ranger) outlines, buy-in for this imitative was poor. During the summers of 05’/06 & 07 I decided to understand why? The picture highlights Rodney celebrating international mountain day in 2005’ with his “pot” on the summit shoulder of Mt Cook. The caption Rodney used on his pot for a media release was “real mountaineers recognize their place in the mountains”. As part of Rodney MSc he also explored the notion of AMCNP becoming a zero-waste N/park. Z/waste provides a sound strategy based on the conservation of resources and energy, and reminds us of the need for a sustainable future. As well as finding out why there was a lack of buy-in for the pots, Rodney also assessed the current facilities in the Park that deal with waste. For example, in the US research on solar toilets in similar alpine settings reduce waste by 60-70%, that’s a lot of saving both in cost of flying in to collect waste and associated labour costs. These up-the-pipe solutions are important in an error of having to do more conservation with less dollars.
Rodney asked the users or rather knowledge experts via in-depth questionnaires (left photo) utlising a mixture quantitative and qualitative methods. The questionnaires were left in 10 alpine huts in the park over 2 seasons, which represented different user groups. He also conducted extensive interviews with park managers, Ngai Tahu members, mountain guides, and mountaineers (right photo shows a mountaineer completing my questionnaire). The most important part of my questionnaire was that it enabled me to identify those climbers who objected to using poo pots – to explore their reality’s. I followed up with interviews of those who objected to the pots in my questioners. Also, the responses outlined suggestions of how they could be modified to seek better buy-in. I also carried out a baseline inspection of huts so that a monitoring programme could be established that sets out limits for acceptable LAC change standards for which to monitor and to assess inappropriate waste disposal at huts/camp/bivvys in the Park.
Good gender balance is the sample, similar to other visitor surveys in the region suggesting an increased number of females are participating in the traditionally male dominated mountain activities in AMCNP. The age cohort supported the &apos;Life in New Zealand&apos; study findings, suggesting that participation rates in mountaineering activities fall with increasing age, and 27% of respondents were from NZ with the balance of the sample population being internationals, next slide. The temporal nature of the respondents’ experiences must be taken into account; 88% of respondents were planning to be in the Park for less then one week, 11% were spending one to three weeks; while only one 1% (one respondent) was spending greater than three weeks in AMCNP. These results are similar to DOC’s (2004) visitor statistics.
Figure outlines the countries of residence for the sample frame. Rodney suggests the higher response rate from domestics could be attributed to the fact that they perceive they have a vested interest in helping AMCNP managers. However, the length of the survey and the fact that it was in English might have limited responses from internationals whose first language is not English.
DoC has an Environmental Care Code (released in 1980) that is distributed at various visitor centers in the country, however compliance with this policy in AMCNP was poor. Some respondents raised a misconception that human waste in the alpine region is natural (which it is not), and degrades in the alpine environment (which it does not). 17% of respondents’ discarded of their human waste not in the infrastructure provided (incl of the pots) e.g., under a stone, on a glacier etc The perceived acceptability of leaving biodegradable waste (fruit skins / cores + anything biodegradable + minor food scraps) had an unexpectedly high response, given the ‘pack-it-in/pack-it-out’ prescription in the Environmental Care Code. There was an unexpectedly high response in support of the concept of poo pots. For Park managers these results are interesting and provide the opportunity to supply users with the tools they need to minimise waste impacts. These results indicate that DOC needs to provide visitors with information on how to and why there is a need to minimise their waste in the Park. The need to have a specific Alpine Care Code.
Of the 87% of respondents who outlined they were not using poo pots, unexpectedly, 26% of those indicated they support the idea. Furthermore, 36% indicated that my questionnaire was the first time they had received any information about the pots. I acknowledge that supporting the idea and doing are two totally different responses but it is positive. Importantly this study revealed several reoccurring factors contributing to the respondent’s unwillingness to use poo pots, which could be rectified to make them more user friendly as the table reflects. From a methodological point of view this this table also illustrates the benefits of employing qualitative research in PNA’s. AMCNP, and that of NZ as a whole to date, has largely relied on quantitative research which leads to numerical estimates that can be helpful for formulating provision of visitor facilities. However, qualitative research attempts to understand the visitors perceptions – their experiences, attitudes, preferences expressed in their own words. This is an important prerequisite to informed management and provision of quality recreation opportunities.
Respondents were concerned about the lack of information in general regarding waste disposal in the park. Although Park managers generally do not have the opportunity to reach their visitors with a structured curriculum, they can educate visitors on site through environmental interpretation. Interpretive materials and staff-guidance, particularly with ethical appeals, can reach many park visitors and minimise their impacts on the natural resources.
The diagram highlights the essential elements of an adaptive design for waste impact monitoring to inform management decisions in the Park. The model requires Park managers in conjunction with stakeholders to identify objectives (outcomes) that can be implemented and evaluated. Monitoring compares conditions to standards set. If standards are exceeded, analysis evaluates the causal factors to aid effective management interventions – incremental procees of learning and adapting – determines the effectiveness of management actions. Using this framework – the core question is not what magic number of mountain-users for an alpine zone is appropriate, but rather what are the appropriate or acceptable conditions for each alpine zone, and how do the park managers manage for them?
As a result of my research DoC released an educational programme regarding the pots in the park, and released a specific Alpine Care Code. Leave no Trace NZ, and the NZ Alpine Club (3500+ members) have released their directives, which promote the use of the pots, and LNT contain cultural appeals as part of its curriculum. To work on: I think the pots can be developed further for additional ‘buy-in’. A design student could explore this, with branding assitance Kathmandu/North Face etc. In addition, using audio visual aids in the visitor centers. LNT NZ is exploring the idea of a certificate for users. Introduce the stick approach and hold a waste bond similar to Denali scheme.
Mangers need to focus on understanding rather than action. LAC focuses on conditions not use limits, this leads to more informed discussion about protected area values. This is especially important in the face of a pervasive mountain-based tourism industry.
Rodney would first has to thank the supporters of his MSc research He was the recipient of the Ngai Tahu Scholarship. AMCNP is considered the jewel in the crown of Ngai Tahu’s [Maori tribes] landscape, Rodney was also the recipient of a Department of Conservation (Govt agency for managing NZ’s PNAs) Science Advice Fund, He was awarded a Sustainable Management Fund from the Ministry for the Environment (Govt agency for the Environment), and He was awarded a scholarship from the New Zealand Recreation Assoc. Without the above support, and the valuable time many of his research participants, this presentation simply would not have been possible.
Rodney Garrard - Inappropriate Waste Disposal in Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park
Inappropriate waste disposal in
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park (NZ);
potential problems, practical solutions
and visitor perceptions.
Rodney GarrardRodney Garrard
Presentation based on Rodney’s MSc thesisPresentation based on Rodney’s MSc thesis
School of Geography, Environment, and EarthSchool of Geography, Environment, and Earth
Victoria University of Wellington, NZVictoria University of Wellington, NZ
Geographic setting - ‘the jewel of the NZ landscape’
““There are some areas in the Park which are not very pretty. At the end of the
summer season when all the snow has melted, all that mountaineers have left
behind comes to the surface, rubbish, left over food (placed in the snow for cold
storage), toilet waste, the lot!” (Gottlieb Braun-Elwert, 2006 pers. com).
““Recently a large party (10+) camped at the 'playing fields'. There wasRecently a large party (10+) camped at the 'playing fields'. There was
faeces behind quite a few rocks and rocks were torn out of the ground forfaeces behind quite a few rocks and rocks were torn out of the ground for
making the tents secure. This place is right on the border line for alpinemaking the tents secure. This place is right on the border line for alpine
plant life, very delicate indeed”. Gottlieb Braun-Elwert (pers. com)plant life, very delicate indeed”. Gottlieb Braun-Elwert (pers. com)
““There is a lot to be learned from climbing mountains, more than you might think, about life,There is a lot to be learned from climbing mountains, more than you might think, about life,
about saving the Earth, and not a little about how to go about bothabout saving the Earth, and not a little about how to go about both””
David BrowerDavid Brower
Who are the knowledge experts
• 57% male; 43% being female (n = 138
• 38% between 20 – 30yrs of age,
• 27% from New Zealand,
• 38% response rate from questionnaires
left at huts,
• 88% of respondents planned to be in the
park less than a week.
countries of residence
Overview of results
• Compliance with DoC’s ECC is poor.
• While their was awareness of not disposing of waste
next to huts, camps and water supplies – few had a
notion of the practicalities in an alpine setting.
• Some respondents indicated that human waste in the
alpine is natural and degrades.
• There was an unexpectedly high response in the support
of the pots (but only 26% had heard of them).
• I uncovered some of the reason why users objected to
the use of pots - so that park managers can increase
Opinions of the poo pots Suggestions for improvement
#2 – Barron Saddle Hut
“I used the poo pot for the first time in NZ. I had not heard of it before.
I think this is a great idea to reduce the amount of human waste
in the alpine environment. But I think one toilet per hut is
necessary as well”. (Germany)
“I think the pots could be made more secure. Also I think they could
provide latex gloves and alcohol hand wash for hygiene
#1- Barron Saddle Hut
“They do the job. However, I am not sure if people are likely to carry
their human waste for more then a day? Especially considering
the pots are not really suited to size for a week or so travel!”
“Provide specific information on their use, why? Etc. Maybe different
sizes for days in the Park and a map labeling where users are
able to discard their starch bags with waste in hut facilities. I
also suggest a more robust container”.
# 1 De la Beche Hut
“I am enthused about the new poo pot concept, which is inline with my
leave only footprints philosophy. However, I am worried about
the durability of the container and the potential for a catastrophic
failure of the pot in my bag!” (Australia)
“Due to the size of the pot required to carry human waste and the
limitation of space and weight that constraints climbers, this pot
seem to be a good compromise. However, what about providing
a more studier container such as a Nalgene bottle like they do
in Yosemite National Park, USA?”
# 2 De la Beche Hut
“Great idea, but they are not very bomb proof!”. (New Zealand)
“Make them more bomb proof (i.e, leak/burst proof).”
# 9 Plateau Hut
“Great idea” (Canada)
“They could be more rigid in design. I would be a bit worried about
hygiene also, lucky I had some alcohol hand wash, this kit could
# 5 Kelman Hut
“These are a great idea for heavily used routes, good for use on route
and small camps” (New Zealand)
“I think that these containers should be provided when climbers sign in
with DOC. This will ensure that all responsible climbers are
provided with them. Check out the WAG bag option that certain
USA national parks implement”.
• 58% outlined that there is a general lack of information regarding
human waste disposal in the park. E.g.,
• “A brochure could be part of the instruction leaflet of best practice in
the Park. It should be mandatory, you get your instruction booklet
when you pay your hut fees and it outlines what is expected of you
during your stay in the Park. For example: O.K. you are going to
Mueller Hut, read this, this is what is expected of you, it’s part of our
policy”. Both in USA and Canada, this is the norm” (Braun-Elwert,
Mountain Guide, 2005, pers. com).
• “A brochure outlining what is expected of the Park’s casual user
would be a great start. Outlining the tōpuni area would be great on
the map of the brochure for example. I wasn’t aware of the area, nor
the implications waste have on cultural associations Māori have with
the area” (Knott, Mountaineer, 2006, pers. com).
LAC & Adaptive Management
1. Establish prescriptive management objectives
2. Select indicators of resource and social
3. Specify standards for indicators
4. Monitor conditions
Informal / Formal-
quantitative and /or qualitative
5. Compare conditions to standards
(Information capture and dissemination)
6a. Standards exceeded
6b. Standards exceeded
7. Evaluate and identify causal factors
8. Select and implement management
Phase One: Steps 1- 4 are finding
out about complex situations:-
Accessing information and
knowledge and community
Phase Two: Steps 5 –
8 taking action to
Phase 1 + 2 =
Diagram illustrating an adaptive management model utilising contemporary LAC planning
framework (adapted from Marion & Reid, 2004).
Where to from
• A line between acceptable (ethical)
behaviour and unethical behaviour does
exist in the mountains. We can no longer
ignore it -
• On-going evaluation of ACC;
• Improve the contribution of the
adventure tourism industry to
sustainable mountain activities;
• Commitment to visitor impact monitoring
• Needs to be a strategic vision for
management of NZ’s mountain-based