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March 1, 2010 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Pure New Zealand?

Pure New Zealand?

Right now, far across the world, a sophisticated Swedish woman with an immaculate coiffure is sipping her fair-trade espresso and excitedly planning an expedition to the Land of the Long White Cloud. This woman is one of our nations’ many would-be tourists, a diverse and intrepid crowd on the whole. She wholeheartedly enjoys wearing brightly coloured Gore-Tex and plummeting down dangerous rivers on glorified inflated cushions.

Our imagined Swedish femme fatale is a budding adventurer in pursuit of “authentic experiences”, lured here by the promise of 100% Pure New Zealand. You know, the international branding of our… um, “slice of heaven”.
The first uniform branding of Aotearoa, 100% Pure last year celebrated its tenth birthday. It has been a very successful decade; since 1999 the brand has stimulated a 50% increase in tourists visiting our fair islands.
While marketeers are clapping each other on the back and going round the pub for a few (dozen) celebratory beers, the rest of us can ask: are we really 100 per cent pure?
100% Pure conjures up waterfalls, endless beaches, pristine alpine peaks, small brown grinning children and frolicking lambs. Maybe with some added images of whale riding and comedic musical duos, fat flightless birds and, occasionally, rings to rule them all.
Impressions that don’t immediately spring to mind include: New Zealand lagging far behind on greenhouse gas emissions targets; the fact that our lowland rivers are unswimmable; mining in national parks; that the fluffy little lambs decorating our utopian postcards are rapidly being discarded, like so many BigMac wrappers, in favour of large dairy herds.
Interestingly, the 100% Pure brand wasn’t originally designed to convey any eco-friendly message, but there is no doubt in these eco-literate times that it does. Even Tourism New Zealand recognises this, and past Chief Executive George Hickton has said “it’s crucial that we protect and improve this image”. Yup, that’s right, if our clean, green image is demolished then it’s not only our tourist dollars at risk, it’s also our export industry. Serious stuff, eh.

Personally, I would love all of Aotearoa to look like the ads, albeit with a few less fluoro parkas. We have a choice as to whether we proudly stand up to the international hype and protect our untarnished image, or whether we let it topple and fall in the pesticide-tainted mud. Do we want groups of eager German tourists wandering our streets, incredulously asking “but vair is zee forest?” I think not.
Each week I’ll be focusing on a different facet of pure New Zealand: how we live up to the branding, how we don’t, how we could make it better. Join me in the quest to discover to the extent to which we are deceiving stylish Swedish women, and how we can stop it.
George Hickton states that 100% Pure is “a promise that we believe the country can and should live up to”. Agreed, George, agreed. What about you, Mr Key?


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