Rising numbers of tourists are putting pressure on essential resources and a new strategy is needed, a professor of tourism says.
The latest International Travel and Migration figures, released in December, revealed a record 3.09 million people visited in the year to November 2015, a 9 percent increase in international visitors over the year.
South Island areas popular with tourists such as Hurunui District have been in drought for months, and an El Nino weather pattern causing drier-than-normal conditions in east coast areas is forecast to continue for the next three months.
Auckland University of Technology professor of tourism Simon Milne told Summer Report the issue of visitor numbers went further than cafes running short of food supplies or people having to queue.
"We're seeing major pressure placed on our infrastructure and very essential resources.
"So we've seen water shortages in places like Hamner which are exacerbated by tourist numbers.
"In many popular towns, especially in places like the South Island, we see a great deal of pressure also placed on public facilities - public toilets, parking spaces - all of those are placed under a lot of pressure from increased visitor numbers.
"So, our challenge really is to say, how do we perhaps spread some of those visitor numbers outside of the peak season, how do we perhaps think about managing the total number of visitors that come to our country, is it a time to start looking in the future a carrying capacity, an overall capacity, beyond which we don't want to develop?"
He said roads, crowding, congestion and poor driving behaviour needed to be addressed.
"As we encourage more visitors to come to New Zealand and to explore the country as free and independent travellers we're opening up those risks and those challenges on our roads."
Mr Milne said there should be a clearer strategy on coping with visitor numbers and managing resources during the busy and off-peak seasons.