'I feel cheated': US backpacker says NZ's 'clean, green' image is a myth

  • 24/04/2018

An American tourist says New Zealand's clean, green reputation is far from the truth.

Marius Viktorius, from Michigan, has been travelling through the country since December. He has documented his adventures on his blog, where he's written about our "friendly" Customs officers and his appreciation for Māori culture.

His most recent post, however, was less positive. Titled 'The Myth of Pure New Zealand', Mr Viktorius claimed that the country's identity as an untouched paradise of beautiful natural phenomena is a myth.

"New Zealand is not some ideal country that's found the balance between people and nature, like 100% Pure New Zealand advertises," he wrote.

"Plastic and trash are abundant, and though there is recycling, it's not engrained in the culture.

"As a byproduct, the culture creates a lot of trash and they haven't found a sustainable solution for disposing it, or curbing its consumerist culture."

He said New Zealand's "excessive" meat and dairy consumption is creating environmental disasters because farmers don't do enough to prevent cow manure from leaching into the waterways.

"While NZ boasts many of the world's remaining clean rivers, they're getting increasingly polluted. It seemed like the media seldom covered this, but the Kiwis I met were fully aware of it."

He also mentioned excessive food spraying, too many cars and "despoiled" freedom camping grounds as evidence of the country's poor environmental record.

Mr Viktorius said all he'd seen of New Zealand before coming here was Lord of the Rings and flattering Instagram photos.

He said that there was much to admire about New Zealand, such as how Māori culture has been incorporated into daily life "instead of wiping them out like other British colonists did in North America and Australia".

"However forward-thinking the culture is, it's just as economy-driven and consumerist as other developed countries," he wrote.

"Consequently, they suffer similar problems: the fruits and vegetables are sprayed with chemicals, eating healthy is expensive, obesity is rampant, etc.

"It's easy to miss the harsh reality and only see only the positives when PR firms and Instagrammers only focus on its many unique nature attractions."

He did praise the trusting, generous nature of rural New Zealand and the "unique" friendliness of locals, but maintained that from an environmental perspective the country leaves much to be desired.

"It's only a matter of time before NZ has to give up its image as a green country, because even the NZ I experienced appears doomed."

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark told The AM Show in February that if the country wants to keep its "clean, green reputation", it should move forward with a plastic bag ban.

"If we're going to deal with this plastic bag menace then it's going to need the Government to act in some way," she said.

"For our country's reputation of being clean and green we better put some substance around it."


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