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  • Group walking through bush in Stewart Island Group walking through bush in Stewart Island
    View kiwi in the wild Stewart Island
    Stewart Island

Conservation & Sustainability

Sustainability Commitment

Stewart Island Experience was an early signatory to the New Zealand tourism sustainability commitment.  It has been recognised as one of the best sustainable tourism businesses in New Zealand with a Qualmark Gold Sustainable Tourism Business Award. Gold identifies those businesses leading the way in making the New Zealand tourism industry a world class sustainable visitor destination. 

Here are some of our sustainable activities relating to Stewart Island Experience:


Stewart Island Experience (part of Real Journeys):

  • is an active member of Predator Free Rakiura which is investigating long-term predator-free options for Stewart Island. Real Journeys GM Paul Norris chairs the group.
  • protects wild kiwi, keeping predators away from the Little Glory Cove area, supplying and regularly maintaining a combination of tunnel and self-resetting Goodnature traps.  This work is done in partnership with the Rakiura Maori Lands Trust.  
  • provides free transport of volunteers to conduct beach clean ups at Paterson Inlet.
  • conducts rodent checks, trapping and baiting at the Bluff ferry terminal, freight storage area and on the ferries. As a further precautionary measure, Department of Conservation dog ‘Detector Gadget’ checks for rodent sign around six times a year.

Logistical support for conservation

  • Free transport of materials and workers is provided for SIRCET (Stewart Island/Rakiura Community & Environment Trust), and SIE team members participate in workdays.
  • Heavily discounted ferry fares are made available to scientific and conservation groups (for example, Otago University Botany Department, Department of Conservation’s Conservation Corps).
  • Free transport for Predator Free Rakiura meetings and activities.
  • Logistical freight support and free travel for volunteers taking part in the large-scale Coastal Clean-up of Stewart Island that is completed every few years. In 2018 the five-day Coastal Clean-up effort saw 28 volunteers removed 16.6 tonnes of rubbish. Three of the volunteers were from SIE.

Logistical support for community

We provide a freight and passenger service year-round across the Foveaux Strait, a challenging and costly stretch of water to operate on commercially.  Unlike most ferry services in New Zealand, Stewart Island Experience does not receive any subsidy from the council.  

  • Local school children and Stewart Island based full-time students travel free on the ferry year-round (includes Invercargill-Bluff shuttle).
  • Discounted ferry tickets for residents.
  • Collect the $5 Stewart Island visitor levy for the Southland District Council (absorbed within the ferry ticket)
  • Throughout New Zealand’s COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4, SIE ferries continue to deliver food supplies and provide essential transport to the island, as well as helping courier vital blood tests to the hospital.
  • Free freight and travel costs throughout construction and fitout of the Rakiura Heritage Centre.

Best environmental practice

We constantly seek new ways to minimise our environmental impact.

  • We have our own maintenance facility at Bluff and maintain all our vessels to our renowned high standard. All our vessels are certified by an independent marine surveyor in accordance with Maritime New Zealand regulations.  Our ferries have been designed and built specifically for Foveaux Strait conditions, and we constantly seek ways to improve our fuel efficiency:
    • the Foveaux Express now has new more fuel-efficient Scania engines.
    • both ferries have new Tiger propellers
    • painted with non-toxic silicon-based anti-foul paint.
  • Our teams act as guardians of the terminal facilities and surrounding harbour environment at Stewart Island and Bluff, monitoring the activities of all users to ensure these areas remain protected.

Encouraging passenger participation & environmental awareness 

Our multi-day Stewart Island Conservation Expeditions raise funds for conservation and awareness.

Prior to disembarking at Stewart Island, ferry passengers are briefed on the importance of preserving the island’s natural heritage and the need to conserve water and electricity, and to recycle.

Award Sponsorship

Real Journeys sponsors the:

  • Environmental Achievement Award which recognises achievements of special significance that benefit Southland’s environment. It is part of the Environment Southland Community Environment Awards, held annually in Invercargill.