A Lord of the Rings actor who now works as a tour guide operator has slammed New Zealand's "clean, green" image.
Bruce Hopkins, who starred as Gamling in the film trilogy, told Fairfax he was up front with tourists when discussing New Zealand's environmental record, saying: "...we ain't no land of milk and honey."
Hopkins was worried about the country's rivers and lakes being degraded by pollution from dairying, calling freshwater ways "gutter holes" and "sewer pipes".
"You wouldn't even think of dipping your big toe into some of these places."
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Hopkins, who entered the guide industry after Lord of The Rings conventions overseas, told Fairfax he'd begun to question why New Zealand wasn't doing more to protect its "100 Per Cent Pure" brand.
"I think there's more to be gained by being honest and having integrity than being deceitful and deceptive, and currently we are leaning towards being deceptive around how we sell ourselves as a tourist destination."
Similar calls have been sounded by groups such as the Tourism Export Council, which has backed a grassroots national campaign calling for swimmable rivers.
The most recent major stocktake of New Zealand's environment - the Government-produced Environment Aotearoa 2015 report - found that the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased; diversity and conservation status of some native species have declined; water quality in rivers that run through intensively-used land has worsened; and more than three quarters of soils under dairy farming are now badly affected by compaction.
It found that while water quality was very good in areas with indigenous vegetation and less intensive use of land, it was a different story in agricultural and urban areas where there was reduced water clarity and aquatic insect life, and higher levels of nutrients and harmful E.coli bacteria.
Acting Tourism Minister Paula Bennett told Fairfax the Government was trying to improve freshwater quality and had invested in major clean-ups and set bottom lines for standards.
Of the 100 Per Cent Pure campaign, she said: "It's an award-winning campaign that is working brilliantly for New Zealand with record growth in visitor numbers. It's not, and never has been, an environmental measure."