Will and Rose Parsons have long known that good environmental practice is good business practice too.
Their tourism operation Driftwood Retreat and Eco-Tours won the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Business Awards’ Adding Value to Marlborough trophy last weekend, in a commendation that’s given them even more confidence in a business plan that looks for environmental and financial sustainability.
“We want to run a business that trades on Marlborough’s stunning ecology and history, without damaging the very thing we want to celebrate,” says Rose. “We hope that every person that comes on our tours leaves knowing a little bit more about the fascinating nature and heritage here, as well as how it can be protected.”
Driftwood Retreat and Eco-Tours has had a focus on kayak tours in the Wairau Lagoons, but has recently expanded to offer tours throughout the top of the South Island, including d’Urville Island and North Canterbury. In each area, they want to give something back to the community and environment they share.
Rose says the trophy, which was presented at an awards dinner at the Marlborough Convention Centre, is thanks to the support of people they work with to make Driftwood Eco-Tours a success. “This is really an award for the community that has driven our business. In a way we made a personal commitment to enhance and support the wetlands of the Wairau Lagoons and Lower Opawa, then the people we work with made a personal commitment to help us succeed. It’s pretty overwhelming really.”
Such collaboration was one of the factors the judges picked up on, with Katherine Hume-Pike of Marlborough Lines highlighting the local talent used to assist the company in developing their business, including “striking branding featuring the iconic royal spoonbill”.
She says the operation is a “real standout” with “a 100-year plan and a genuine focus on growing a sustainable business”.
The judges were impressed by the expansion of Driftwood’s product offering and distribution channels, demonstrating an awareness of the value from both domestic and international tourists.
They also supported the work done to incorporate environmental and cultural elements in Driftwood’s tours, ensuring “a truly unique visitor experience”, as well as their initiatives to encourage visitors to extend their stay in Marlborough.
Katherine says the couple are clearly passionate about the area they operate in. “They are active in local environmental work, education, consult with local Maori and other groups and are involved in weed control, pest control and revegetation.”
Will says the accolade is heartening, but there’s still much for them to do. “Our challenge is to see more people visit the birth place of New Zealand. It is what we love to share.”