Local business gives back to their backyard

30 June 2022
Tash and Cliff Goodwin from Glacier Valley Eco Tours are passionate about their backyard. With the borders closed due to Covid-19, they have quietly been working together with other businesses and organisations to maintain and enhance their local environment.

Local business gives back to their backyard

Tash and Cliff Goodwin from Glacier Valley Eco Tours are passionate about their backyard. With the borders closed due to Covid-19, they have quietly been working together with other businesses and organisations to maintain and enhance their local environment.

Cliff is originally from Taranaki and Tash from Timaru.

"We met in Nelson in 2002 as friends. Cliff was travelling down the West Coast on his way back to Milford in 2003/4 where he used to work as a kayak guide and ran out of money - he got a job at the guiding company and stayed for a few years.

“We met up with each other again in Motueka in 2004. I think Cliff missed the Glacier, I used to joke it was his other girlfriend, and Cliff convinced me to move here in 2005, where he worked as a glacier guide for Franz Josef Glacier guides until 2016.

“I wasn't aware we were going to stay this long, but we love it here.

“We live in Ōkārito next to the kiwi sanctuary. We have kiwi on our driveway at night, deer on our back lawn, fernbirds in the garden. The lagoon, beach, and rivers are close by for swimming and collecting seafood.

“We have made lifelong friends and they are like family to us.

“Most people live in the cities and come here for a holiday. We live here and go to the city for a holiday. Well, I do, Cliff hates the city!”

Tash and Cliff bought Glacier Valley Eco Tours from Mike and Julie Charles in 2016.

“It’s been a locally owned and operated small business for nearly 30 years. We had wanted to buy it for a number of years, and it was the right time in 2016.

“With losing foot access to the terminal face of the Franz Josef glacier, Cliff didn't like having to take a helicopter to work on the glacier every day. He loved the forest walk to the glacier, as he is more of a tramper/bushman than a mountaineer. This is his dream job - he gets to walk around in beautiful places and talk.”

Glacier Valley Eco Tours delivers a personalised, safe and informative experience for all ages and abilities, with an emphasis on local knowledge, history, conservation and natural elements, so that you leave with a new sense of appreciation and connection with nature.

“We want to provide an affordable option to show anyone and everyone around our amazing backyard, educating them on climate change, conservation, predator control. This is the perfect place to show that.”

Cliff taking a tour 3 (credit Jase Blair).jpg

Credit Jase Blair

Their business has strong environmental credentials and provides opportunities for visitors to give back to the local environment and offset their travel to the area.

Since 2018, they have been running a predator trapping community project at Lake Matheson.

“We noticed a low bird song which we were sad about, as it is such a beautiful Jurassic area and at one time there would have been a deafening amount of bird song.

“We named the project after our 'Early Bird Tour', which is a very early tour at the lake to catch the outstanding mountain reflections and the morning bird chorus.

“We have a core group of around ten dedicated volunteers, including kids – who are really into it. Visitors can donate toward the project through our local Franz Josef DOC office,” Tash says.

$5 from every person taking their ‘Early Bird’ tour of Lake Matheson goes towards the project.

They now have 115 traps in addition to 200 from DOC.

“It's unrealistic to think we will eradicate pests here indefinitely with this project alone - it's about education, and giving birds, invertebrates and lizards a bit more of a fighting chance.

“Since our project started, DOC have released Rowi kiwi into this area which is fantastic, and we like to think we had some kind of help with that happening.”

Another environmental initiative they are involved in is the Ōkārito Community Nursery

“The nursery was initially formed in conjunction with DOC and Air New Zealand Environment Trust to restore Lake Wahapo’s ancient kahikatea swamp land and in turn protect all the ecosystems from the glaciers to the sea,” Tash says.

“It continued on to provide an extensive range of native plants for public and private sale.

“We have a restoration area at the Ōkārito wharf. Initially it was full of gorse and blackberry, now it’s a flourishing native haven to fernbirds, kotuku, bellbirds, tui and others.

To help offset the carbon footprint of their clients’ travel, they donate a native tree to each member on their ‘Ōkārito nature tour’ and show them how to plant it in the restoration area.

Restoration work by Okarito Community Nursery.jpg

Development West Coast (DWC) chief executive Heath Milne says it has been an incredibly difficult couple of years for businesses in Glacier Country, who have been hard hit by the COVID-19 border closures.

“During the downturn many local businesses have been putting in hard mahi through Department of Conservation’s Jobs for Nature program as well as their own environmental initiatives.”

DOC’s Jobs for Nature initiative has been a lifesaver for Tash and Cliff.

“We were the first company to trial run it, with Cliff building predator trap boxes in the DOC workshop in Franz Josef,” Tash says.

“We have been fixing access tracks through the bush, analysing predator footage, kiwi audio monitoring, running the Ōkārito Nursery, working in the nursery restoration area cutting gorse and planting trees - all work which follows on from our core business of nature guiding and is part of who we are.”

As well as working on the environment, they have being working on their business during the downturn.

“We have used most of the available resources and financial assistance from DWC. At the moment the Digital Hub sessions with Jody Direen (digital marketing specialist) are fantastic. She is a wealth of useful practical knowledge and it's been invaluable.

“We have got new marketing advice, imagery and brochures with the help of DWC, which is also fantastic, and we are currently working on a new website.”