Survey finds New Zealanders are sceptical about top tourism slogan

Just over one in 10 Kiwis believe New Zealand can claim to be 100 per cent pure.

The findings on how New Zealanders see their country have fanned the flames on the debate about how "clean and green" we really are, and whether it's fair to present New Zealand in that way.

Of those questioned in a Herald-DigiPoll survey, 43.1 per cent thought New Zealand could claim to be only 80 per cent pure, and 34.5 per cent believe it is only 60 per cent pure.

But Tourism New Zealand spokeswoman Deborah Gray said some people were confusing the campaign with an environmental issue.

"The 100 per cent Pure New Zealand campaign is a marketing campaign not an environmental promise," she said.

"It tells the story of how the combination of landscapes, people and activities is 100 per cent unique to us, that is 100 per cent pure New Zealand."

A doctoral candidate in advertising and marketing communications at AUT University, David Bibby, said he "absolutely" agreed that people had taken the "100 per cent Pure" slogan too literally.

"Advertising is all about accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative, so if you start from that premise, advertising is a selling process," he said.

"And obviously '100 per cent Pure' is just an aspirational statement that probably is a relative expression. But it's a lot like the old slogan, 'Washes your whites whiter than white'."

Mr Bibby said the exaggerations were "advertising puffery".

"It's considered acceptable because everyone knows they're exaggerations. There's an element of truth in it."

He said the negativity which had arisen as a result of criticisms of the campaign would be hurting New Zealand's tourism industry because of the ease with which news travelled around the world.

"I think it's a storm in a teacup and it won't be doing our advertising overseas any good because we live in a global village and everyone picks up these debates online."

But the head of the New Zealand Association of Scientists, Professor Shaun Hendy, said that on a per-capita basis, New Zealand had one of the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

The Victoria University physics professor said the association stood behind Dr Mike Joy's claims that it was wrong to call New Zealand "100 per cent Pure".

Dr Joy made headlines last month when the New York Times quoted his views on New Zealand's environment.

"There's two worlds," he told the newspaper. "There's the picture postcard, which is Queenstown and up in Mt Cook and all that kind of stuff which is perfect and where they make the Hobbit movies, and all that is amazing.

"But most of New Zealand, 70 per cent of it isn't like that. It's really badly polluted and we are just getting worse and we crucially need to have that clean green image to sell all of our products overseas."

Herald-Digipoll Summer Survey
How pure can New Zealand claim to be?

100% pure - 11.2%
80% pure - 43.1%
60% pure - 34.5%
40% pure - 7.1%
20% pure - 1.5%
Don't know/refused - 2.5%
Survey of 500 people early this month, margin of error 4.4%