Cruise ships are likely to return to Akaroa in November but there will be fewer of them than before the COVID-19 pandemic, says Christchurch City Council.
Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, ChristchurchNZ, and the Lyttelton Port Company recently briefed the Banks Peninsula Community Board about the likely return of cruise ships to Canterbury waters, explaining what preparations are in place for the coming season.
“The Government has indicated that a date for the re-opening of New Zealand’s marine borders will be announced within the next few weeks,” Council said in a statement.
“If the marine border reopens this year as expected, it is likely about 19 cruise ships will visit Akaroa between November 2022 and March 2023. This represents a major reduction from the 90 cruise ships that visited Akaroa during the 2019/20 season.”
Council says the new berth at Lyttelton will be available for cruise ships for the first time this season.
“Passenger numbers are subject to change, but there will be significantly fewer cruise ship passengers in Akaroa this season than there were during the 2019/20 season.”
“For most days of the 2022/23 season, there will be fewer than 1000 cruise ship passengers disembarking in Akaroa. On the busiest days of the season, there will be fewer than 2000 cruise ship passengers disembarking,” Council said.
Regional Harbourmaster, Jim Dilley said that the 2022/23 cruise ship season would allow the community to understand how a lower volume of cruise vessels affects the area.
“The community can compare this season with previous years and decide if this represents a good balance,” he said.
Mr Dilley said the Harbourmaster’s Office would be working alongside other agencies to ensure cruise ship operations were completed in a safe and coordinated manner.
“Our staff will be on site managing the maritime activities and access to the wharf, while Christchurch City Council will be overseeing the activities on the shore.”
Cruise ship visits to Akaroa have been a matter of community interest and discussion in recent years, with concerns raised over the number of ships visiting, potential damage to the seabed and safety.
As recommended by a 2021 report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, the lull in cruise ship visits has been used to address these concerns, Council said.
“By introducing new limits on the number of anchorages, size of vessels, and how often they can visit, Environment Canterbury want to lessen any environmental impacts,” it said.
“Since cruise ships last visited New Zealand in 2020, Environment Canterbury, ChristchurchNZ, and the Christchurch City Council have worked together with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Toitū Te Whenua (LINZ) to get feedback from the community, reduce the potential social and environmental impact of tourism activities on the water, and gather environmental data.
“This work has included high-tech seabed mapping of Banks Peninsula. ChristchurchNZ will also be commencing a Destination Management Plan for Banks Peninsula this year.”
All the reports and data collected to date are being taken into account as Environment Canterbury reviews the Regional Coastal Environment Plan. An integrated plan framework is being developed over the next few years and will include the opportunity for community consultation, Council said.