4 ways Walter Peak is becoming Queenstown’s sustainable tourism destination

Date: 3 August 2023

Queenstown, the adventure capital on the wilderness's frontier, has always been a magnet for thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike. However, with an increasing focus on sustainable and conscious travel, tourists visiting Queenstown are now seeking ways to explore the epic landscape surrounding Lake Whakatipu in an environmentally friendly way.

One destination that is quickly emerging as a sustainable tourism hotspot is Walter Peak, and with the help of their new horticulturalist, Paul, they are taking significant steps towards becoming the ultimate sustainable tourism destination. We’ll explore the five key ways Walter Peak is achieving this feat.

horticulturalist 'Paul' at Walter Peak

Photo: Hannah Ellis

1. Hiring a horticulturalist

All good things begin with a horticulturalist, or so they might say. But what does a horticulturalist do? Typically, they’re experts in garden and land cultivation and management. If we think of Walter Peak High Country Farm as one huge garden to cultivate and nurture, then that’s Paul’s job.

Paul's main responsibility is to oversee a reforestation project that involves planting native hardwood trees to create habitats for the region's native wildlife. Additionally, this project will help offset carbon emissions, contributing to the fight against climate change. Also on the agenda is redesigning the gardens to optimize flow and productivity, ensuring a steady supply of produce to the restaurant while maintaining a balance with nature.

Group of planters with tools

Photo: Liz Carlson

2. Conserving birdlife

Walter Peak is right on the border of some of NZ’s greatest national parks and high-country regions, making it a vital part of the local ecosystem. Recognizing the significance of this unique environment, the team at Walter Peak is committed to the role they need to play in conservation.

Walter Peak should become an attractive destination for birds and birdwatchers alike

To create a sustainable environment for migratory birds, the farm is planting native trees which will act as rest stops for our native bird species. These stopovers allow the birds to rest and refuel during their long journeys cross-country, making the area an attractive destination for birds and birdwatchers alike. By focusing on planting the right native tree species, Walter Peak ensures that tuis, robins, and fantails, are ready to take a break and hang out at the farm.

Tui sitting on a tree branch

Photo: Troy Tanner

3. Planting native trees

Planting native hardwood trees at Walter Peak doesn’t just help vulnerable birdlife species thrive. It also contributes to carbon reduction, vital in the battle against climate change.

The trees we plant could ingest carbon for 1000 years!

Paul tells us planting trees isn’t as straightforward as we might think, it’s about planting the right ones. The peaky wilding pines aren’t just a pest, they’re also not as effective at soaking up carbon, with a similar lifespan to a human. Their fast-growing nature means they will only soak up carbon for their lifespan. Native hardwood on the other hand lives for between 800-1000 years. That could be 1000 years of carbon ingestion!

Photo: Liz Carlson

4. Growing a restaurant garden

Walter Peak is also a dining destination and a popular one. Sustainable tourism extends to culinary experiences, and Walter Peak is running with this, by creating a restaurant garden. By growing produce onsite, the farm-to-table concept becomes a much closer reality, reducing the carbon footprint of transporting food from across New Zealand.

Paul is already laying the groundwork, digging up 12 sections which will undergo continuous harvest and planting so there’ll be a consistent supply of food for the restaurant.

By growing produce onsite, the farm-to-table concept becomes a much closer reality

He also talks about companion planting, which means he’ll be planting flowers to attract good predators such as native birds and invertebrates, so they won’t need to use pesticides. His idea is to have the scale of a commercial grower but be kept organic and natural.

The restaurant garden will not only supply fresh and organic produce to the restaurant but also allow visitors to witness and appreciate the farm-to-table process. It brings a new level of transparency to the culinary experience, fostering a deeper connection between visitors and the food they consume.