Visitor numbers to Kapiti Island have plummeted this summer, after a steep rise in the entry fee.
Only 283 people visited the island last month, compared with 1569 in January last year.
The Conservation Department increased the access fee in February last year, which resulted in the cost of a trip rising from about $190 to $300 for a family of four.
The increase was to help fund improvements on the nature reserve. Recent investments have included upgrading the sewage system and providing flushing toilets, as well as an upgrade in the visitor kiosk.
Visitor numbers dropped sharply last February, rebounded in March, and fell again from April to June.
Kapiti Island Nature Tours operator John Barrett, who runs a homestay business on private land at the northern end of the island, said his visitor numbers had increased so far this season.
However, he believed the new access fee should have been introduced more gradually.
"DOC committed to review the new fees at the end of this season. Introducing the new system more slowly rather than dramatically may have made a difference.
"We could have passed it on in smaller amounts. It is tough going for the transport operators."
He believed the domestic market had been more affected by the new regime than the international market, which was continuing to flourish.
DOC spokesman Chris Lester said that, rather than speculating on possible factors influencing the decline in visitor numbers, the department was intending to review all potential contributing factors.
"DOC recognises the huge visitor opportunity that Kapiti Island provides, and seeks to work with other parties to ensure this opportunity is available to as many visitors as possible.
"DOC will continue to identify opportunities to improve the on-island facilities to enhance the visitor experience within budgetary constraints."
- The Dominion Post
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