Tourism torrent leaves taint

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A torrent of overseas visitors combined with farm runoff is pressuring waterways to the point where New Zealand’s reputation as a tourist destination is under threat, a university academic says.

Otago University tourism professor Brent Lovelock says pictures of NZ’s watery landscapes, including Queenstown’s glittering lakes overlooked by jagged, snowy mountains, is a huge pull for tourists.

They’ve been a key part of the country’s ‘100% Pure’ marketing campaign which has helped spur a huge increase in tourists.

Official stats show international visitor arrivals rising from 2.64 million in 2013 to 3.65 million – a 38 per cent increase in four years.

But the tourism surge puts huge demands on water, whether through hotel use, in resorts like Queenstown, or on waterways.

Lovelock says some rivers, lakes or streams are “on the cusp”.

“Not only is the environmental and ecosystem health of our waterways at stake but also the reputation of our country as a tourism destination.”

Lovelock is one of four Otago University speakers at this coming Tuesday’s symposium in Queenstown, ‘Something in the Water – Why Should You Care?’

The other speakers at next week’s symposium are freshwater scientist Marc Schallenberg, environmental law specialist Nicola Wheen and geographer Sarah Mager.

Lovelock and masters student Stuart Hayes published a paper last year, surveying international fishermen from Europe and the United States.

Unlike our two top tourism markets – Australia and China – the anglers tapped by Otago Uni researchers have a similar expectation to Kiwis of water quality, Lovelock says.

“What we’re finding from our research with those international anglers is that they can see through the 100% Pure, I guess, farce. They talk about 100% bullshit or, perhaps, more aptly, 100% cow shit.”

He adds: “Some people will accuse me of being over-dramatic, but we’ve got the data.”

Last month, Federated Farmers’ president William Rolleston said farmers, and dairy farmers in particular, have made significant environmental improvements.

Ahead of next month’s election, he called on political parties to take a “sensible, practical and affordable” approach to agricultural issues.

A government stocktake of lake and river water quality, released in April, painted a grim picture, particularly near urban waterways.

It said about three-quarters of native fish species were close to extinction.

david@scene.co.nz

‘Something in the Water – Why Should You Care? is on this Tuesday, 7pm, Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront. Register your interest with the code QN Winter Symposium at: