A New York Times article says New Zealand's clean, green tourism branding is as "fantastical as dragons and wizards" as it clashes with the reality that the country's environment is in a bad state.
In the build-up to the release of The Hobbit film later this month Tourism New Zealand released Hobbit-themed advertisements promoting "100% Pure Middle Earth, 100% Pure New Zealand" showing picturesque scenes of the country's native bush and rivers.
But, according to a recently-published New York Times article, the images portrayed "might not be exactly warranted".
"There are almost two worlds in New Zealand," Mike Joy, a senior lecturer in environmental science at Massey University in Palmerston North, told the newspaper.
"There is the picture-postcard world, and then there is the reality."
Last month the Ministry for the Environment released a survey showing more than half the country's freshwater recreational sites were unsafe to swim in, largely due to the contamination of waterways by the dairy industry.
The New York Times article says the government was "desperate" to have The Hobbit filmed in New Zealand after the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy which pumped $400 million into the economy, through tourism, in 2004 alone.
Pure Advantage, a nonprofit group promoting green business, estimates that the country will overtake the United States in per capita emissions in less than eight years, putting it almost into the world's top 10.
A recent report by the same organisation said the nation's environmental record was worrying for its economic future and New Zealand needed to give legitimacy to its "100% Pure" brand.
Tourism New Zealand spokesman Gregg Anderson says the campaign isn't misleading international tourists as "100% Pure" was never just about the environment, it was also about the experience.
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