If you have ever looked at tourist brochures detailing where to go, what to see and do in New Zealand, chances are you will have noticed a branding that says “100% Pure New Zealand”. The fanciful brochures depict a New Zealand with unspoilt scenery as pristine as one might exepect in a fairy tale. It is scenery is definitely impressive to look at and has been used in many movies, such as Lord of the Rings to great effect, but there is something non-New Zealanders need to know about Pure New Zealand.
Sadly Pure New Zealand is quite misleading. Yes we are still a beautiful nation to visit. Yes in many respects we are cleaner than a lot of other first world countries are. However we have some quite glaring problems with our environment and our whole approach to sustainability that are progressively getting worse. Despite claims to the contrary, this Government has proven no more able or willing to resolve them than the previous Labour Government.
What are those problems?
- New Zealand has one of the largest ecological footprints, per person in the world. If every person around the world lived like a New Zealander does, we would nearly need another whole Earth type planet with same or very similar physical features
- Despite having some of the cleanest fresh water in the world, a decade and a half of sustained growth in the dairy industry has seen many New Zealand water ways degraded to the point where they are no longer suitable for swimming in; where some water ways no longer flow because all of their ground and surface water is in use
- We have an exploding e-waste problem that is hardly known about much less being contained – a highly toxic 80,000 ton a year problem that no party in Parliament or outside appears to be interested in tackling
- The oceans are acidifying to a degree that the entire marine ecosystem could be endangered – the chemical composition of the oceans and what the species in them can tolerate is changing, and New Zealand is as guilty as any other nation of contributing to it
- Climate change or not, there is sufficient evidence globally that the environmental quality of nations would improve if we reduced our carbon emissions
There are others, but the above are a good start. If New Zealand acted on these, it would significantly improve our standing as a nation that genuinely cares about the environment and understands that economic growth can happen with a clean environment. Although both National-led and Labour-led Governments have made good progress on some issues, the general trend is towards undoing that progress in other areas.
One good example is our carbon emissions. On one hand the percentage of New Zealand electricity coming from renewable sources is definitely increasing, helped by the probable closure of the two remaining coal fired units at Huntly, which is our only power station using coal. On the other hand, this Government’s strong preference towards privately owned cars, has seen a significant increase in road traffic across the nation, which means much of the progress made by moving to renewable electricity sources is being undermined. This short sighted thinking is typical of the last two Governments to have held office in New Zealand.
I personally think that Pure New Zealand should be dropped immediately and permanently as a brand, and something more honest thought up. There are plenty of other positives that we can promote without trying to sell misleading advertising that should be hauled before the Commerce Commission and punished.