For over ten years now, Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure New Zealand campaign has been a staple brand for marketing New Zealand to the world. But whether we ought to be laying such a pure claim at all has come under fire on many occasions, most recently on BBC programme Hardtalk where John Key was left sweating after host Stephen Sackur put some tough questions to the Prime Minister about the clean and green image on which New Zealand prides itself.
As part of the 12-minute interview, Sackur fired into Key, quoting Dr Mike Joy, an environmental scientist at Massey University, who says New Zealand is delusional about how clean and green it is. Sackur cited a number of environmental faults, including a quote from Joy that says 90 percent of lowland rivers are classed as polluted, to which Key replied:
“If anybody goes down to New Zealand and looks at our environmental credentials...then for the most part, I think on comparison with the rest of the world we are 100 percent pure.”
Key reckons he could find a number of opinions that would counter Joy’s view, but Sackur wasn’t buying it.
“100 percent is 100 percent, and clearly you’re not 100 percent,” replied Sackur. “Whether you agree with Mike Joy’s figures or not, you’ve clearly got problems of river pollution, you’ve clearly got problems with species which are declining, threatened with extinction.”
The 100% Pure New Zealand brand is intimately tied into New Zealand’s tourism strategy, and as shows like Hardtalk continue to expose New Zealand’s dirtier side, common sense says we can’t really continue to market ourselves on being 100 % pure.
In another incident, this time courtesy of the Guardian newspaper, author, environment journalist and Guardian columnist Fred Pearce, fed New Zealand to the dogs saying we are falsely trading on our positive environmental image.
“My prize for the most shameless two fingers to the global community goes to New Zealand, a country that sells itself round the world as 'clean and green'," he wrote.
And at a recent Sustainable Business Network event in Auckland, founder of 42 Below vodka and the current executive chairman of Ecoya Ltd, Geoff Ross, said that while there is massive opportunity for New Zealand in terms of eco wealth, we have to be careful with how we’re selling ourselves to the world.
New Zealand, he said, shouldn’t be boldly going out to the world and as a pure and green country while we forget what’s happening back home. Ross drew on the heavily polluted Manawatu River as an example, which according to research by the respected Cawthron Institute, tops the list of over 300 rivers and streams across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand as the most polluted.
So what does Tourism New Zealand think about this? We’re yet to get a hold of chief executive Kevin Bowler, but in an interview featured on StopPress a short time before he assumed his post as chief executive in January 2010, Bowler offered some insight.
In that interview, he had reservations about the 100% Pure New Zealand line being associated with New Zealand’s environmental performance, preferring to align it instead with the experience and feelings associated with a visit to New Zealand.
Fair enough, but surely that experience, or at least part of it, is intricately tied in with a pristine environment. And, among the campaigns' push of other elements synonymous with New Zealand, like adventure for example, you can’t deny that parts of the campaign give New Zealand an air of being an environmental paradise of sorts.
Check out the full Hardtalk interview with Key below.