A hate-filled website has appeared on the internet warning foreigners they risk murder, rape or being killed in a car crash if they visit New Zealand.
The site warns the only country in the world more dangerous to visit is war-torn Iraq.
Although shocked at some of the sentiments expressed on the Apartheid Fort New Zealand site, Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said a less-extreme version of the warning had merit.
"You do find some pretty weird and wonderful opinions on the internet and this would be at the extreme end to most people's minds," Bowler told the Sunday Star-Times.
"A lot of the comments are completely extreme and unwarranted and we certainly don't condone that at all, but equally I don't dismiss these types of things as an issue.
"It does affect our reputation when tourists are robbed, or something even more serious happens to them.
"What sometimes happens is that people feel very safe while they are in New Zealand, so they let their guards down."
The website, headed Plumbing the depth of Depravity, features a bold warning: "NZ! Keep out!"
It includes a blog entitled: "Proudly Killed in NZ", listing the names of hundreds of foreigners the site claims have died in New Zealand in recent years.
The website also claims two foreigners are killed in New Zealand every three days, and goes on to describe the country as a "tourist death trap". In comparison with those claims, Statistics New Zealand data showed that almost 30,000 people died in New Zealand in 2008, or 246 every three days.
An earlier posting warns anyone contemplating visiting New Zealand to drop the idea because they are "at least twice more likely to get killed here in 2009-10 tourist season than last year!"
Bowler, who was previously chief executive of the Yahoo!Xtra website, said there was no doubt New Zealand was a safe country on a global scale.
The results of a recent visitor survey on perceived levels of security came back with a response of 8.8 out of 10.
But he said the view among many visitors that New Zealand was one of the last bastions of safety was also resulting in some tourists being robbed, maimed or worse.
"Occasionally, sadly and very regrettably, you get situations where people are exploited or taken advantage of in New Zealand, just as they would be anywhere in the world," he said.
"What we would say as a tourism organisation is that visitors should be as careful and thoughtful about their own personal safety in New Zealand as they are in their home countries."
Bowler said Tourism New Zealand was committed to heightening awareness about personal security among tourists and keeping their belongings safe.
That work would be aimed at tourists who were not part of a tour party, and would include giving operators such as rental car companies safety tips and guidelines for their clients.
Internal Affairs said it had no power to act on the contents of the website because it was not covered under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Amendment Act 2005, which centred on sexually explicit content, including child porn.
All inquiries were referred to police HQ, with a spokeswoman there saying: "This site and its contents are not worthy of any response."
Moderators from the website did not respond to inquiries.
- © Fairfax NZ News