New Zealand’s Green Tourism Push Clashes With Realities

5 December 2012

A recent New York Times article explored the dichotomy between New Zealand's "100% Pure" tourism marketing campaign - centered around the picturesque scenery featured in the popular Lord of the Rings film trilogy - and recent data from a global study that found New Zealand to be 18th worst out of almost 190 nations when it comes to nature preservation. The study focuses on measuring countries' endangered species and loss of indigenous vegetation and natural habitat.
The nation's actual state in terms of environmental benchmarks is coming under scrutiny just as it is about to get another tourism lift from the recently released film The Hobbit, a pre-quel to the original Peter Jackson films:

The “Lord of the Rings” films were a boon for New Zealand, attracting more than 20,000 people a year to the country and pouring an estimated 700 million dollars into the economy in 2004 alone.

International tourist spending almost doubled, from 3.1 billion dollars in 1999, when filming of the “Lord of the Rings” began in the country, to 6 billion dollars at the end of 2004, a year after the final installment of the trilogy made its debut. By 2011, however, the number had tapered off to 5.6 billion dollars, according to statistics from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Although the government has not projected any numbers for the “Hobbit” trilogy, it was desperate to keep the filming in New Zealand and repeat the success of “Lord of the Rings.” After a dispute with the New Zealand actors’ union, the government even changed labor legislation to clarify how actors were seen under the law. It also offered the Hollywood studio Warner Brothers an extra $25 million in tax breaks on top of its basic 15 percent subsidy as a sweetener.

The article, by Charles Anderson, goes on to describe unsafe swimming conditions in over half of New Zealands's freshwater sites due to fecal contamination and the widespread loss of wetlands that have endangered multiple species.

For more detail and analysis, please read the entire article on The New York Times.