TV images not the top model for tourism boss

By John Cousins

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The Bay's tourism boss says New Zealand's unique point of difference should not be condensed down to sheep in paddocks and disrespectful images of a Maori haka.

Tourism Bay of Plenty chairman Paul Bowker has supported criticism of how the country was portrayed in filming for the TV show, America's Next Top Model.

A report obtained by the New Zealand Herald showed the country's tourism agency was unimpressed with the final edited version of the 2010 show, saying too much imagery featured rural landscapes with sheep.

Tourism New Zealand was also disappointed with undesirable imagery in which the contestants had to strike a pose with a sheep. The young women also affected a range of facial expressions when greeted by a haka.

"Next time we will have a blacklist of banned imagery written into the contract so we will have tighter control." Tourism New Zealand's internal report said.

Mr Bowker said Maori culture was the jewel in New Zealand's tourism crown and this message had to be put across properly and respectfully.

"It is our biggest point of difference."'

New Zealand's other point of difference was its clean green image, and sheep in paddocks was clearly not the total picture, he said. However he believed no one could afford to be too prescriptive on what could be filmed. "You can encourage and educate." Tourism New Zealand warned that it was very difficult to present Maori culture in an American reality TV in a culturally appropriate and respectful way. There was no way to guarantee the outcome and scenes of Maori culture should be treated with "extreme caution".

Mr Bowker guessed that the show was fitting overseas perceptions of New Zealand. "If that is what they think, then that's what they think, and you can't blame them.

"We need to get the message across that there is more to New Zealand than that. In a perfect world everybody would know what was going on here."

He said it was a question of New Zealand being proactive. Otherwise it would always be perceptions that ended up in the final edited version of TV shows like America's Top Model.

"Maybe that is what they wanted to tell their audience ... it is what works for them," Mr Bowker said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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