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DOC rejects criticism of new fees, says increases well signalled

21 Feb 2017  By Paul Yandall

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has rejected criticism of its new landing fee increases saying they were well signalled and many concession holders won’t be affected until next year.
DOC’s permissions and statutory land management manager, Dave Johnstone, told the Ticker that department staff had been talking to the industry in the lead up to the announcement.
“I don’t think they can be too surprised as there were a number of indications from a number of DOC staff that fee increases were coming,” he said.
Under the new pricing regime, fees for activities such as heli-skiing will leap by almost 80% over a two-year period, from today’s $27+GST per person per day to $48+GST per person per day on 1 July 2019.
Single drop-off or pick-up fees will increase by 40% from $15+GST per person today to $21+GST per person in 2019, which will add $36+GST to the cost of a single six-person helicopter trip.
“The new prices are effective from 1 July, but for current concession holders we can’t implement them until their next rent review. So, for a lot of operators the new prices won’t take effect until 2018,” said Johnstone.
He rejected concerns over the scale of the increases saying they were in line with similar activities that required concessions.
“In our experience with the recreational tourism industry, these sorts of percentage figures are pretty standard for a lot of recreational activities on conservation land. We’ve got dedicated staff providing fee advice and I’m comfortable with the figures.”
DOC also generated income from activities associated with scenic flying, such as guiding, which was calculated as a percentage of gross revenue.
Legislation required the department to charge market rates for its concessions and it had focused resources on getting the pricing right.
“We only have four service centres dealing with concessions now, whereas it used to be each conservancy, each province doing it, and that created inconsistency,” said Johnstone. “We’ve probably lifted our game and a consequence of that is we understand industry pricing a lot better than we used to.”
The department had worked hard to stay close to the industry in order to understand their requirements.
“We’ve tried a lot in the last couple of years to communicate with them a lot more, to try and work with them, to understand their demands. They’re under pressure from the tourism industry and that puts us under pressure too to try and accommodate them,” said Johnstone.
“So, they shouldn’t fear us. I like to think we’ve got a good enough relationship that they wouldn’t be concerned about their concessions.”

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