NZ reputation hurt by declining water quality, tourism industry says

Sights like this are damaging our reputation with overseas visitors.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Sights like this are damaging our reputation with overseas visitors.

The Tourism Export Council rates the Government's latest attempts to clean up New Zealand's waterways as an epic fail.

Council chief executive Lesley Immink​ said the newly announced target of having 90 per cent of waterways swimmable by 2040 was a smokescreen that disguised the true state of the declining water quality in rivers, lakes and streams. 

She said there was a risk New Zealand's reputation as a clean green place to visit would be damaged if it was not backed up by a meaningful freshwater policy.

Unpolluted waterways are an important part of our sales pitch to overseas visitors.
Supplied

Unpolluted waterways are an important part of our sales pitch to overseas visitors.

"Without a sense of urgency pollution of our waterways will continue to worsen for the foreseeable future – something the tourism industry cannot afford.

READ MORE
* New Government target to see 90 per cent of rivers and lakes 'swimmable' by 2040
* The thorny politics of 'swimmable', a word losing its meaning

"We have to be seen to be doing all we can to live up to the 100% Pure New Zealand promise". 

Overseas visitors are not impressed to find warning signs like this one at Canterbury's Coes Ford.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Overseas visitors are not impressed to find warning signs like this one at Canterbury's Coes Ford.

Immink​ said tourism businesses tended to operate in pristine areas, but there was anecdotal evidence that overseas visitors were aware of the worsening pollution problem.

"Today's visitors are environmentally aware and clean water is an essential aspect for New Zealand's tourism and primary exports future.

"Self drive visitors around the country are noticing all these "toxic" signs and the small waterways that look horrible".

The Government's new measure for freshwater to be safe to drink or swim now effectively allowed E Coli readings at levels that meant there was a one in 20 chance of getting sick from swimming in rivers and streams, Immink​ said.

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This was vastly different to what most New Zealanders would consider swimmable, she said. 

"Quite simply the goalposts have been widened to ensure more rivers and streams fall within the govt's threshold of swimmable.

Last year the Tourism Export Council, which represents 1300 inbound tour operators, supported the Choose Clean Water Campaign and presented a 13,000-signature petition to Parliament calling for better freshwater quality.

* Audio courtesy of RNZ

 - Stuff

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