photos by Find Away Photography

Queenstown Venues Leading the Way in Sustainable Tourism

by Raashka Mannie | 04 Mar 2020

The New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment in action ensures that every New Zealand tourism business is committed to sustainability by 2025, aiming to take the lead worldwide in sustainable tourism. With this in mind, sustainability is at the heart of Queenstown’s world-famous beauty. Preserving their crystal clear lakes, stunning mountain ranges and crisp surroundings are unquestionably linked to not just the management of the environment, but also of its betterment. With so many resources drawn from the core of Queenstown’s ecosystem, the need to actively practice sustainable tourism in everyday settings is now vital. Queenstown aims to focus on caring for the planet and safeguarding their future by committing to environmentally-friendly systems, from wildlife sanctuaries to the restoration of native flora. This collection of venues showcases some of the best and brightest steps towards sustainable tourism in Queenstown. For more information on Queenstown venues, look at our comprehensive guide here.

The Rees

Image by The Rees

The Rees is a luxurious and elegant hotel that sits on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, boasting lovely views of the water, a library of rare books and art, complimentary WiFi and so much more. Additionally, one thing The Rees does like no other in Queenstown is the keeping of honeybees. The Rees Bees are part of their eco initiative, producing around 25kg of honey for harvest from their family of nearly 40,000. Furthermore, The Rees has launched an initiative with the Kiwi Birdlife Park, Kea Conservation Trust and the Department of Conservation to save New Zealand’s native parrot, the Kea, of which under 3,000 remain in the wild. However, it doesn’t end there: The Rees continues to carry out sustainable practices such as the planting of native trees, electric car charging stations on-site, formalised energy consumption monitoring (including carbon offsetting), discharge and in-house recycling management, and even biodegradable toiletries.


Camp Glenorchy

Image by Camp Glenorchy

A modern melding of beauty and nature, Camp Glenorchy is 40 minutes from Queenstown and equipped with a firm resolve on focusing on sustainability and the environment. They want to pioneer new standards for sustainability in Queenstown, built and operating under the Living Building Challenge (LBC), which has been recognised as the world’s most stringent environmental building design certification. They used non-toxic construction materials, native flora and fauna, and many handmade features and furnishings from New Zealand creators. With interactive and informative tablets in each guest room, you will learn about and control your energy and power use. Camp Glenorchy generates its own on-site energy via 432 solar photovoltaic panels, representing the South Island’s largest solar garden, whilst using 50% less power and 50% less water than similar venues. They hope to perform in line with the Net Zero energy target, a goal to generate as much energy as is used, and are part of The Headwaters, innovators in resource-efficient tourism.


Sofitel Queenstown Hotel & Spa

Image by Sofitel Queenstown Hotel & Spa

Made in the image of modern France, Sofitel is situated in the middle of Queenstown and has won a host of awards for its indisputable excellence. Having signed up for Accor’s global sustainability project Planet 21 (an initiative that focuses on limiting Acoor’s hotels have a smaller environmental footprint, promote the health and wellbeing of their guests, work towards a positive community and stand up for the rights of others), Sofitel has also committed itself to being a sustainable tourist spot. They have begun with smaller, impactful changes, such as removing plastic straws, engaging in a rigorous and thorough recycling/reusing policy that also benefits the homeless, those in need of emergency relief and poverty-stricken countries, and cutting down on both water and energy use through conscience practices. By carrying out Planet 21, they have also seen to the funding of steady tree planting: a tree is planted every minute as a result of their commitment to Planet 21. Most recently, Sofitel has partnered with Novotel Queenstown and Shotover Primary School to replant the Shotover Wetlands with native vegetation.


Millbrook Resort

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A 5-star resort that spans 500 acres, Millbrook Resort is award-winning and a favourite venue amongst tourists and locals alike. With a specialised Millbrook Environmental Group in place, this resort is dedicated to reducing their impact on the environment through a host of sustainable practices. As usual, it started with small, meaningful changes, such as keep cups made from rice husks to encourage reuse, as well as food waste now being separated and composted in Bokashi bins to be used in the gardens. Millbrook has also established a vegetable garden of their own, alongside an orchard with 80 fruit and nut trees fronted by a certified biodynamic gardener. Over 1,000 native plants now frame the Millstream, aiding in natural cleaning and filtering of the water, which has led to a direct increase in an increase in native birdlife. Millbrook also has over 100 chickens that roam around at their will, laying free-range eggs for all to enjoy. In terms of their recycling initiative, Millbrook is part of Soap Aid (recycling and reusing old soap to be donated to those in need) and the thorough recycling of plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles to be broken down for construction purposes. Their next move involves considering how to help the Queenstown community with the help of the Millbrook staff, whether it be community clean-up or the planting of trees for a better tomorrow.


Gibbston Valley Winery

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25 minutes from the centre of Queenstown, Gibbston Valley Winery is the culmination of the best Queenstown has to offer: a stunning winery right next to the bubbling waters of Kawarau River. They have been practicing sustainable tourism and winemaking for over five years, with organic winemaking at the centre of their ethos. As this requires biodiversity, Gibbston Valley Winery has taken essential steps in being environmentally friendly. With Gibbston serving as the home for a duo of rare lizards of New Zealand, they have set up a conservation area above the river to allow them to flourish. Continuing in this organic fashion, their organic waste is disposed on an on-site worm farm and compost bins to help the chef’s garden thrive; the garden is chemical-, fertilizer- and pesticide-free. With the plant life prospering and their unique landscape at Gibbston Valley, they have decided to set up an apiary near Tom’s creek, harvesting a sustainable source of honey from the bees that have now made it their home. The restaurant also has a careful recycling regime, with no more plastic or harmful packaging, instead choosing compostable Stone Paper Packaging from a Kiwi company that has seen 150,000 litres of rubbish diverted from landfills each year. In their spa and lodge, they have adopted the same sustainable outlook, with local and environmentally-conscience suppliers on hand, supplying everything from handmade soap to bamboo toothbrushes.



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Overlooking Lake Wakatipu and settled on 3 acres of alpine hillside, Sherwood is a unique and refreshing space for anyone fortunate enough to be their guest. Their goal was to create a space that allows people to connect with nature, so practicing sustainable tourism comes hand in hand with their doctrine. They have chosen to make conscious choices concerning construction and energy output. Sherwood is one of the largest private solar installs in New Zealand, currently generating more energy than is required by their hotel, with 248 high efficiency multi-crystalline solar panels across all roof surfaces. Their own garden - sustained and run using biodynamic principles - produces over 60% of their vegetable and herb requirements. All food waste is run through a bio-digester and returned to the garden as compost; all glass, paper and plastic are recycled whenever possible. Within their space, they have focused on upcycling, recycling and repurposing, from Italian army blankets used as curtains to recycled cork panels for wall linings. Sherwood also practices sustainable and healthy programmes in the community, focused on guests’ growth and learning through yoga, pilates, massage, garden produce swaps, markets, cultural offerings and so much more.


Fishbone Bar & Grill

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Make your way over to downtown Queenstown, where you’ll find Fishbone Bar & Grill and a variety of fresh seafood that will leave you singing their praises. Their menu is seasonal and innovative, with Darren Lovell at the forefront of their creativity and sustainability. Not only do they catch much of the seafood themselves daily, but Fishbone Bar & Grill also roots around in Darren’s backyard, where his extensive and organic vegetable and herb garden lives. “We’re self-sufficient in all our autumn fruit, which we use on salads and desserts,'' Darren said, “We use [the berries] in our pavlova and other desserts.” Using homegrown produce is one of the more sustainable ways to manage tourism and dining in Queenstown. In keeping with that train, Fishbone Bar & Grill also supports and practices sustainable fishing. They have committed to focusing on reducing their environmental footprint one step at a time, and encourage all their diners to do the same. “Growing up here means fishing and collecting seafood, whether it’s wriggling for clams with your toes, diving for crayfish or spending a Saturday morning floundering,” Darren said. “We should be so proud.”



Image by Eat New Zealand

Amisfield is situated in Central Otago, and has a firm philosophy rooted in the land itself: they draw inspiration from the earth and want their guests to do the same. They opened in 2005, with a building constructed with a pitched copper roof, recycled timberwork and remarkable stonemasonry. Amisfield has developed a new and exciting approach to viticulture - one that looks to help the sustainability of drip-irrigated organic vineyards, as well as conventional vineyards, worldwide. With the arid and varying climate of Central Otago, nutrient deficiencies are quite common, particularly with organic vineyards (such as Amisfield). The benefits of their new approach are two-fold: under vine weed control has been facilitated through the reduction of weed growth and amount; and irrigation water is no longer wasted transporting weeds, but instead used to “grow” nitrogen supply to the vines, using solar energy and rhizobia bacteria. With mid-row irrigation installed alongside the help of Bert Sim, a retired farmer that has leant Amisfield his expertise, they’ve successfully created a new form of organic viticulture suited to drip-irrigated vineyards.



Image by Findaway Photography

Rippon has been a part of Central Otago since 1975, offering gorgeous views of the vineyard and Lake Wanaka, Ruby Island, the Southern Alps and beyond. Their walls are made from compacted earth from Rippon hillside, with trusses and beams built from timber from their forest. They are part of Sustainable Winegrowers New Zealand (SWNZ), a movement spearheaded in 1995, a voluntary, industry-wide initiative created to provide an environmental 'best practice' model for both vineyard and winery. Rippon follows the code of biodynamic winemaking, which, in a nutshell, is a set of farming practices that strives to treat any farm or vineyard as one, solid organism. They employ organic farming methods, alongside soil supplements and a planting calendar that relies on astronomical configurations. They are bound to treating the earth as a living part of their work and livelihoods. "To be granted the opportunity to have my input into Rippon, the land and its wines is special and comes with a huge amount of responsibility. We have already been here for four generations and it would be lovely to be here for another four," said owner Nick Mills.



Image by Scope Media

As Sustainable Vineyard of the Year in 2019, Carrick has strong beliefs and practices surrounding sustainability in every form of the word. They were established in the 1990s and are an hour’s drive from both Queenstown and Wanaka, with relaxing views and so much to offer. As an organic winery and vineyard, Carrick operates under the world-leading Sustainable Winegrowers New Zealand (SWNZ) and focus on 9 “pillars of sustainability”: air, biodiversity, byproducts, energy, people, pest and disease management, soil, water, and business. They also collaborate with Organic Winegrowers New Zealand (OWNZ), an organisation that is dedicated to supporting and encouraging the production of high quality, organic and biodynamically-grown wines. Carrick’s principles of sustainability, organic winegrowing and biodiversity are present throughout their venue. Additionally, they focus on equally important aspects of sustainability in regards to employment and education, with conferences, as well as engagement with the local community and schools.


Blanket Bay Lodge

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Blanket Bay Lodge is one of New Zealand’s premier luxury alpine lodges, known around the globe for their attention to detail and elegant atmosphere. In keeping with their care for their guests, they are equally devoted to reducing their impact on the natural environment by adopting sustainable environmental, economic and social practices. They are part of several local initiatives that focus on the sustainability and natural growth of tourism in New Zealand, as well as avid supporters of local businesses, suppliers and vendors. Blanket Bay Lodge has partnered with local tourism operators to support the community. They also champion the local artists and display a large collection of their work within the Lodge. Craftsmen, tradesmen and furnishings are all locally sourced.


Crowne Plaza Hotel

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Mere moments away from the centre of Queenstown, Crowne Plaza Hotel basks in lovely views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables and is a hotel known worldwide for their amenities and professionalism. Crowne Plaza Hotel is part of the IHG Green Engage System, described as “an innovative online environmental sustainability system that gives our hotels the means to measure and manage their impact on the environment.” There are over 200 green solutions for participating hotels to choose from, all designed to ensure a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly future. All hotels under the IHG Green Engage System must be at least level 1, which entails completing the 10 best green solutions that pertain to their particular space, such as tracking of consumption, setting up a property green team and installing energy-efficient lighting in guest rooms. Crowne Plaza Hotel is committed to working through the 4 levels of the IHG Green Engage System, which further include sustainable purchasing, installing energy-efficient appliances and much more.


The Glebe

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Centrally located for extra convenience, The Glebe is a classy venue that focuses on bringing key services to their guests with ease. From team-building experiences to dedicated staff, they are here to offer you all that you need - including a conscience outlook on making their venue as sustainable as possible. The Glebe has their own Eco Policy, a doctrine that they have pledged to follow to ensure that they are as green as can be. The main facets of their policy is three-fold: to think before they buy, with informed buying decisions to reduce the amount of raw materials used in manufactured goods, eliminate air and land pollution, cut waste volumes and support local Queenstown and New Zealand businesses; to think before they use, with efficient use of energy, water, cleaning supplies, fuel and so on to reduce their environmental impact; and, lastly, to think before they discard, choosing to recycle as much waste as possible, reducing the amount of materials going into our Southern Lakes landfills. The Glebe believes in biodegradable or environmentally-friendly products, donating which they no longer need, and doing their best to keep Queenstown green.


Hilton Queenstown

Image by Experience Queenstown

On the blue shores of Lake Wakatipu, Hilton Queenstown is 5 minutes from the airport and comes equipped with a relaxing spa for your convenience. This world-class hotel has also partnered with the Tasmanian Native Forest Protection Project in an effort to offset carbon emissions. It doesn’t end there, however. Hilton Queenstown initiated the Soap Aid program in Queenstown in 2016, which inspired several local hotels to join in on the movement. This non-profit organisation focuses on providing recycled soap to communities around the world facing hygiene challenges. Each month, the participating hotels gather used bars of soap (rather than letting tons go to waste in landfills), after which they are sanitised and processed into bars that are donated to those in need around the globe. In a single year, Hilton and the other hotels collected over 2,050kg of discarded soap.

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