NZ's clean, green tourism image contentious

4 February 2013

Whether New Zealand has a clean, green image is increasingly becoming a contentious issue, a University of Canterbury international tourism expert said.

UC marketing and tourism professor Michael Hall said the image is being questioned at home and abroad.

"It has got to the point that I think the image is starting to erode, not because of one single environmental issue as yet, but because it's being incrementally eroded.

"Our 100% Pure tag has been very successful but people have either forgotten or don't realise that the tag was originally meant to be connected to the experience rather than the physical environment per se.

"But perhaps because of how people want to see themselves and New Zealand it has been tied in very much to being clean and green. The problem with 100% Pure is that while it helps our biological economy as in agriculture and wine, as well as tourism, it really doesn't help present New Zealand as being particularly innovative or high tech.''

Late last year Prime Minister John Key defended New Zealand's 100% Pure brand after international media reported that it misrepresented the country's environmental record.

Several years ago New Zealand Trade and Enterprise researched international perceptions of New Zealand and, with the exception of Australia, the results suggested that New Zealand had a nice environment and was a nice place to visit but that its business acumen and innovation levels were low.

Producing and promoting yet more movies that focus on the New Zealand landscape doesn't really help change those perceptions quickly, Professor Hall said.

New Zealand had a conservation estate that was increasingly being pushed to return a dividend.

He said the record on climate change was abysmal and an international embarrassment, especially in Europe.

"There are clearly also ongoing issues with water quality and use, and the expansion of dairying. Although perhaps the Government believes that by focussing on Asian markets our environmental record isn't quite such a concern.

"We are slipping in relative terms as a developed country but, in a global sense, we are still in the top half of the league. We certainly need to improve our recycling efforts but the present government is clearly loathed to bring in measures such as deposits on bottles and end of life product returns.

"There is more investment going into roads than public transport which in the long run, will also have significant pollution effects. On the pollution side we have a lack of leadership on climate change and encouragement of further intensification of farming with a flow-on effect on water quality.

"Perhaps what is also forgotten is that attractive, high quality environments are also a part of our overall competitiveness. In the long run, if we want to attract mobile educated people and their skills - as we do - then our environment is just as important as the salary base, culture, housing costs and accessibility.

"If we just want to be the tourist destination, rugby field and farm of the South Pacific it is excellent. If we want to be more than that, we need to leverage it in other directions. I'm not sure that there's a willingness to do that because the success of 100% Pure has become something of a sacred cow.

"Yet we need to realise that not only does it not support some aspects of what we want to say to the world, but that other countries are also starting to position themselves in a very familiar fashion,'' Professor Hall said.

For further informationplease contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Communications and External Relations
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168
kip.brook@canterbury.ac.nz