Sunday Star Times: Picture imperfect

Kim Knight of the Sunday Star Times writes about recent international attention to New Zealand’s ‘clean green’ image, and the potential gap between perception and reality.

Articles in the Guardian and the New York Times have drawn attention to the fact that New Zealand may not be the environmental haven many people think, and it has caused discussion over the impact that this could have on our economy.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“The last major government study of the value of our clean green brand was in 2000. Back then, the Ministry for the Environment found that if New Zealand’s environment was perceived as being degraded, international consumers would purchase 54% less dairy products; Australian tourists would reduce the length of their stay by 48%, and Japanese visitors by 79%. The report said there was a crucial link between image and export value, “and that image is separate from the reality of the state of our environment. That means we have a buffer, a period during which our environment could degrade without it necessarily affecting our image and therefore our exports”.

“Jill Caldwell, director of research company Windshift and co-author of the local 8 Tribes study, says one negative story can be combated. “It’s when you get three stories, or more, that’s a tipping point.”

“[Jill] points to recent focus group work in the United Kingdom. When presented with New Zealand’s record on greenhouse gas emissions (we are one of the developed world’s fifth-worst emitters, on a per-capita basis), participants were shocked.

“A typical response? “To know that there is no haven out there, there’s no hope almost, if they’re not doing it, if they’re not prepared to…there’s nobody else…they were the one shining light”.”