This is the second time perennial loon Rachel Stewart and I agree on something

The first time was when we both agreed getting death threats wasn’t fun.

Imagine you’re a foreign tourist. Why would you, over any other destination, spend your moolah coming to “clean, green, 100% Pure” New Zealand when it isn’t? Our rivers, lakes and streams are already ecologically failing so, what’s left to ooh and aah at? Oh, yes, the jam-packed, “you need to make a booking” Great Walks, and all sponsored by … you fill in the blanks.

This week we’ve learned that the Department of Conservation is working closely with the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment on a somewhat unusual venture. Actually, it’s insane, but that minor detail won’t stop it happening. It’s investigating the prospect of branding Karamea as “Moa Town” and using a giant moa installation to attract visitors. The plan includes developing a display of moa and Haast’s eagles at Oparara Caves, with a possible light show, positioning them as “new products” for the West Coast.

Yes, just like the township of Bulls has a plethora of plastic-looking bulls displayed up and down its main drag, Karamea may be destined to join the tourism tack-fest too – sans the sizeable scrotums.

Who, in their right mind, thinks this a good idea? If tourists want that, they usually go to Disneyland, or Te Papa. Aside from the fact that being in nature usually means, you know, being in nature. For everything else, there’s the internet. Or Florida.

Don’t even get me started on what DoC’s core statutory duty is, and how well that’s going. Yes, that’s right. Conservation.

But I guess when 800 native species are currently classified as threatened and faced with extinction, and the funding for saving them just isn’t there, you may as well get on board with the theme park idea. Life is a rollercoaster.

I certainly believe we need to change our tourism to one where there are fewer visitors that spend more money.  We are already full to the brim.  A bit like immigration, we can’t just keep flying in planeloads of people when the natural  infrastructure can not be expanded.  It is a finite, and in some places, stressed resource.


– Rachel Stewart, NZ Herald



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