Key Points:

Poking fun at Australians has been something of a national sport for decades, but now New Zealand's tourism bosses want less teasing and more visitors.

The plea, which may astonish patriotic Kiwis, is a serious one and comes as New Zealand tourism agencies take the bold step of adopting Australia's national colours as a marketing tactic.

"While one comment is pretty innocuous, if every second Kiwi makes a comment [to Australian visitors] about the cricket or about the rugby, it will start to grate on them," said Christchurch and Canterbury Marketing chief executive Ian Bougen.

"If we want to keep those Aussie dollars rolling in ... maybe we need to learn to be a little bit more hospitable."

Tourist numbers from Australia have generally been increasing in recent years, up to 900,000 last year.

But tourism agencies see room for growth over the traditionally quiet autumn season.

In a series of television advertisements from mid-March, the South Island's autumn colours will be marketed to Australians as being "painted green and gold especially for you".

The advertisements will be fronted by TV presenter Petra Bagust and actor Robbie Magasiva.

"Canterbury's colours are normally red and black, but we've decided that it's time for us to turn green and gold - at least for a few months," Mr Bougen said. "It's a little bit cheeky and a little bit quirky."

Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said many Australians had an outdated view of what New Zealand had to offer.

"They are not aware of the differences in the seasons, our festivals and events.

"That's what we are aiming to do - give them more reasons to come, at more times of the year."

Outspoken Australian journalist and former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons says the transtasman ribbing is usually good-natured.

"These days in Australia, you barely ever hear anyone even mention the fact that the price of lamb in New Zealand has gone up to $2.95 an hour."