Getting ready for the return of cruise ships to Akaroa

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 2022/23 season.

Cruise ships to return in lower numbers

The Government has indicated that a date for the reopening of New Zealand’s marine borders will be announced within the next few weeks.

If the marine border reopens this year as expected, it is likely that 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.

The new berth at Lyttelton will also 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.

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.

Keeping the community updated

Dilley said Environment Canterbury is keeping the community updated on changes and answering any questions people may have. The Harbourmaster’s Office will be working alongside other agencies to ensure cruise ship operations are 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,” said Dilley.

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.

The reduction in cruise ship visits to Akaroa is consistent with the intent of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment 2021 report, which focuses on reducing the environmental footprint of the tourism industry. 

By introducing new limits on the number of anchorages, size of vessels, and how often they can visit, we want to lessen any environmental impacts.

Working together to reduce cruise ship impact

Since cruise ships last visited New Zealand in 2020, Environment Canterbury, ChristchurchNZ, and the Christchurch City Council have worked together to get feedback from the community and reduce the potential social and environmental impact of tourism activities on the water. Environment Canterbury has also worked with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Toitū Te Whenua (LINZ) to gather relevant 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 we review 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.