Proceedings of the Sixth Australasian Conference on Cave Tourism and Management


Waitomo Caves, New Zealand
September 1985



Edited by D R Williams and K A Wilde


Hosted by
Tourist Hotel Corporation of New Zealand
THC Waitomo
Private Bag


Copyright on the papers comprising these proceedings is the property of individual authors. Apart from their fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission.



Price NZ$20.00


Copies of these proceedings are available from D R Williams, Caves Manager, Waitomo Caves, New Zealand.


This publication records the formal proceedings of the Sixth Australasian Conference on Cave Tourism and Management. It should also record that there was a very productive exchange of ideas, attitudes and information during the informal sessions and an exchange of genuine friendship between professionals in the highly specialised field of cave management.

It is only in the last two decades or so that an awareness has developed of the need for scientific cave management and yet caves in our part of the world have been used for recreation and revenue for around a century. In some cases those first eighty years or so without adequate management has led to a deterioration of the resource and in a relatively short period in the life of the cave, damage has been done that cannot be repaired. Cave management then is a relatively new but very important field and cave managers and others with a responsibility for caves management are very few in number, the opportunities for professional dialogue are limited. These biennial conferences do create a platform on which we can advance our profession. It is pleasing to note how the conferences have developed over the years particularly the international flavour with the contribution from North America and Elery's perceptive observations of caves management overseas.

No doubt much of the information and ideas bought together at this conference will flow back to caves throughout Australasia improving both management techniques and the visitor experience. To maintain the momentum is the challenge to us all, the difficulty as Andy Spate commented is to get these ideas into the heads of the people above us. This is one way in which hosting the conference can assist the cave manager. It seems to me that here in Waitomo the conference will have its greatest impact. The conference and our centenary in two years focuses attention on us at a time when we are entering a new and critical period. It was an extremely useful exercise to use the conference as a platform to suggest a direction for the future of cave tourism in Waitomo. The feedback and suggestions were encouraging and it is hoped that this will continue as development planning begins.

I believe that the dialogue amongst us should continue in between the conferences. One way to keep in touch is the Caves Management Newsletter. This needs your contribution to make it viable, so if you have any news on new appointments, new facilities, useful products or techniques, recent publications, management plans etc, send the information to Elery for inclusion in the newsletter.

This is an appropriate time to pay tribute to Elery Hamilton-Smith not only for convening this conference, not an easy task when the Tasman separates us, but for his considerable input into caves management throughout Australasia. His advanced and precise thinking continues to inspire us all. These conferences owe much of their success to his foresight, organisation and participation. We are indeed fortunate in New Zealand that there is so much co-operation and liaison between Government agencies, institutions and interested groups in the area of caves management. Much of the generation of that spirit comes from the Department of Lands and Survey. Their support for the conference contributed a great deal to its success and we are grateful to them for their active participation, for the vehicles and staff they made available for field trips and for typing and drafting these proceedings. Thanks also to the Waitomo Caves Museum Society for their support and assistance before and during the conference and to everyone who attended or presented papers. Photographs in these proceedings were taken by Glen Bailey, the characters on the front cover are Jim Young and Dave Gardiner both from Waitomo.

I hope the Waitomo Conference has expanded our skills as managers of caves and karst, remember to support Elery with the newsletter, see you in New South Wales in 1987.

Dave Williams
T.H.C. Waitomo Caves


  1. The structure of the Commission on Cave Tourism and Management, as the auspice under which this and previous conferences have been held, was discussed. It was suggested by the Convenor that this needs review in the light of the growing involvement from New Zealand. It was agreed that:
    1. there should be a thorough review, culminating in a decision at the next conference,
    2. the conference should maintain its broad focus upon both national and state level karst land management issues and local level cave management issues, and
    3. a discussion paper will be prepared for the next issue of the Newsletter and circulated to all concerned.
  2. The next conference will be based in Central New South Wales and organised on a mobile basis with the themes of:
    • the management of small tourist cave operations
    • management of wild cave areas
    • advertising and promotion opportunities.
    Andrew Spate (convenor), Adrian Carey, Robert Crews, Mick Chalker and others will be responsible for organisation.
  3. That this conference strongly supports the preliminary proposals for development of the Ruakuri Cave as presented to the conference, and further commends, in conjunction with this development, the preparation of a long-term strategy for Aranui Cave and the Ruakuri Cave and Bush Scenic Reserve.
  4. That this conference supports the development of the proposed Waitomo Caves Walkway.
  5. That this conference recognises commercial adventure caving as an appropriate use of caves in both the public and private domain. This clearly can provide a proper and safe introduction to cave use and conservation. The approach of John Ash in the Waitomo area is commended for its flair and sensitivity to the cave environment.
  6. That this conference recognises and commends the value of the New Zealand Speleological Society's Karst Index in cave conservation, management, research, exploration, public safety and tourism.
  7. That this conference endorses in principle the draft policy for cave and karst management in areas managed by the Department of Lands and Survey and the New Zealand Forest Service, as discussed by the conference.
  8. That this conference commends the concept of long-term integrated planning for the better management of the karst resources of the total Waitomo region.
  9. The Conference recorded its thanks to David Williams and the Tourist Hotel Corporation as Conference Organisers and to all those who assisted, including officers of the NZ Department of Lands and Survey and the NZ Forest Service, the NZ Speleological Society, and in particular, the Waitomo community, including the District Council and the Waitomo Museum Society.