Climate change has affected New Zealand’s glaciers as tourists can no longer go to the ice on foot because of glacial retreat. Fox Glacier and the Franz Josef Glacier are now only accessible via helicopter.
Local tour operator Fox Glacier Guiding has been unable to take tourists hiking since April because the glacial melt had caused the river to block access to a popular hiking trail. Another glacier that also serves as a tourist sport, Franz Josef Glacier, is no longer accessible via hiking since 2012.
According to the New York Times, tourists can go to the glaciers only by way of helicopter. The glaciers lie at the junction of the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea on the west coast of South Island in New Zealand. Local touring companies have made helicopter tours their business. New Zealand tourism accounts for 3.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2013 based on government data. Since the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers were first measured more than a century ago, scientific research has shown the glaciers have advanced several times.
However, recent data revealed that both have retreated farther than the last five years. Scientists have predicted data the retreating trend to continue for a longer term. Brian Anderson, a glaciologist at Wellington’s Victoria University, said that the glacial retreat was undoubtedly caused by climate change.
In 2014, an academic survey of tourism in New Zealand’s glacial region revealed that about two-thirds of respondents said they would still like to go to the Fox and Franz Josef area even if they can only be accessible via helicopter. About one-fifth of the respondents replied that are not willing to pay for a helicopter flight to be able to walk on the glaciers.
Noise from helicopters going to the glaciers may annoy some tourists, according to an official from the Conservation Department in the town of Franz Josef. Wayne Costello said the glacial tour is also a way for guides to educate tourists about climate change.
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