Social dimensions of national park use: a case study of summertime visitation to Arthur's Pass National Park Research Completed


Social dimensions of national park use: a case study of summertime visitation to Arthur's Pass National Park

Lead Author


Lincoln University

Publication Year



Lincoln University


Stephen Espiner



The visits people make to national parks are products of their various social characteristics, early and current experiences, motivations, perceptions, and attitudes. These visits, however, also occur within a broader social context, the identification of which is an important feature in terms of understanding national park use. This study examines contemporary social dimensions of national park use, and assesses the degree to which the relationship between preservation and use has altered since a study of the same location was undertaken by Simmons in 1980. Through the use of both quantitative and qualitative techniques, the research explores the characteristics, motivations, perceptions, attitudes and activities of summertime visitors to Arthur’s Pass National Park in 1994. The results of the research show that a number of dimensions have remained stable over time. Consistent with the findings of Simmons (1980), visitors to Arthur’s Pass National Park are young, predominantly male, well-educated, and from professional occupational backgrounds. Additionally, family and friends continue to act as strong socialising agents which direct and shape Park use. Notable among the studies’ differences include: an increased proportion of overseas visitors; a reduction in the length of visit; and a diversification and intensification of recreational use. This thesis contends that, owing to a diverse set of technological and socio-political developments, the use of Arthur’s Pass National Park is in a process of transition. Elements of this have important implications for the management paradox concerning preservation and use. New styles of recreation, and increasing numbers of overseas visitors can be seen as challenges to the traditional conceptions of national parks, and will require careful management in order to conserve the opportunities and experiences they offer.


Arthur’s Pass National Park; National parks; Preservation; National park use; Outdoor recreation; Motivations; Satisfactions; Perceptions; Attitudes; Social change

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June 24, 2013

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