Patriotic and green New Zealand? (Wellington, North Island, New Zealand)

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January 22nd 2010
Published: February 3rd 2010
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(Day 658 on the road) Wellington, capital of New Zealand. 350.000 people (4,5%!o(MISSING)f New Zealand's total), a relaxed inner city and an atmospheric setting right by the ocean. After my wet hike around Mt. Taranaki I was looking forward to some creature comforts and to meet up with an old travel friend of mine, Harriet, who now lives and works in Wellington. Harriet and I had first met in China climbing Mt. Hua Shan in June 2008. We had met again in November 2008 riding motor-bikes across Laosfor an awesome month. So it has been over a year since we last saw each other, and it was great to catch up again and meet some of her Kiwi friends.

I spent five days in Wellington, and on my second day I stumbled across a critical article in a local newspaper about how New Zealand "falsely markets" itself overseas. Of course, as anyone would expect, the country's tourism office portrays the country as a "green outdoor destination". This article now claimed that New Zealand was not nearly as green as it pretended to be, with ever-increasing CO2-emissions. I was intrigued, and a day later I set off to do some research on the topic. After spending some time comparing emission levels worldwide (absolute, per capita, and changes over time) I have to give a mixed review:

1) In absolute terms, New Zealand's emissions are small (0.1%!o(MISSING)f the world's total, compared to 21%!f(MISSING)or China and 20%!f(MISSING)or the USA for instance), just as you would expect with a population of just under four million.

2) In relative terms (emission per capita), it is not doing too bad either, ranking number 50 out of 210 countries surveyed (the top three countries here are Qatar, UAE and Kuwait)

3) However, and this is what the article I read focused on, New Zealand seems to be doing way too little to reduce its emission levels. Whilst most developed nations have reduced their emission or at least kept them constant since 1996 in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol (ie. Sweden: -15%!,(MISSING) Germany: -4%!)(MISSING), New Zealand has increased its emission by a whopping 18%!,(MISSING) en par with countries like Indonesia or the Philippines.

So it is a mixed bag. Good in absolute and relative terms, but definitively going the wrong way. As an everyday traveller however one sees none of that - the landscape is remarkably beautiful.

Here are two other things that have puzzled me for a while about New Zealand: One is the high cost of Internet (and telecommunication in general I should add), the other are the omni-present "Proud to be Kiwi" advertisements.

The high cost of Internet had already astonished me in Australia, where the situation is similar. Even in expensive hostels free Internet was mostly unheard of, not even free Wifi. In 18 months of travelling before I came to Australia and New Zealand I have never had any problems of finding free Internet or at least wireless Internet. In fact, most travellers avoid hostels without free Internet altogether. In New Zealand and Australia, that is nearly impossible, with almost all hostels charging high prices for Internet. I just don't get it - even in some of the most remote islands in, let's say, the Philippines, hostels and cafes had free wireless Internet. Why not in New Zealand, a country so much more developed than most Asian nations?

And then the "Proudly Kiwi-owned" marketing. If you have been to New Zealand you know what I am talking about. These kind of advertisements are found virtually everywhere - from cornflakes packages ("Buy me, I am a 100%!K(MISSING)iwi-brand!") to shops on the high street. Now, I do understand that a fair level of patriotism is healthy for the unity of any country, especially since New Zealand is a comparably young nation with a diverse mix of races. Also, buying local produce for instance keeps more money in the local economy and helps the environment. But when consumer choices are primarily based on who owns the respective company rather than on quality or value for money, I start to wonder. And does the optician really need a huge sign outside his shop stating "100%!K(MISSING)iwi-owned"? Who cares if the optician is a New Zealander or from Malaysia, Chile or Spain, as long as he is trained and professional? Foreign opticians pay just as much tax, so there isn't even a monetary explanation here. Is this still a matter of healthy patriotism or is it bordering on a slight foreigner-phobia?

Next stop: Abel Tasman Great Walk (South Island, New Zealand).

To view my photos, have a look at And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon (and most other online book shops).


3rd February 2010

Bag man
Did you see bag man in Wellington? We have also encountered the controversy regarding the so-called ''green-ness" that NZ claims, especially their rodent poisoning, pest spraying and water pollution actions by specifically dairy farmers. It shocking really!
3rd February 2010

Kiwi Owned
While it is certainly open to abuse, the Kiwi (or Aussie) owned mantras are designed around the idea of keeping money circulating within the local economy. If you buy a foreign product, a percentage of that money leaves the country and its economy to go to the foreign owners. Over-used perhaps, but a fairly basic concept. The optometrist is a likely example of "creative marketing", however, since even if the company is owned by a New Zealander, they'll be selling lenses and frames that undoubtably come from overseas.
3rd February 2010

Proudly Kiwi owned
The Kiwis aren't the only people who do this - the Brit's do it as well as the Australians. I was always under the impression that it was to keep money in the local economy, help local industry, be more environmentally friendly (as you aren't shipping things all over the world) and in the case of fresh fruit and veg know that you are actually getting fresh seasonal produce. You are right that it can feel very xenophobic though! I agree completely about the internet as well - there are a few things Australia and NZ really need to catch up on!
3rd February 2010

Thanks for keeping us abreast on your journey. Your travel and "travails" are quite a fascinating read. And for someone who has not been to most of the places you've been to, it is a vicarious experience altogether. Cheers, Hector
4th February 2010

Another Interesting Blog
Thanks again Ben for another great Blog that not only describes that place, but also gives a sense of the local culture and issues facing them. I have travelled Asia and just recently Europe and come away shaking my head at the high cost of communication in my country of Australia. There are some big groups making money for sure. I subscribe to your Blog and, though I make no comment, I have enjoyed everyone. Thanks.
4th February 2010

Hi Ben, I actually agree with you completely. I think its sensible to buy locally where possible but Australia (I haven't been to NZ recently so don't feel I can comment) has a tendency to be xenophobic, making it really difficult to immigrate and generally bein less than welcoming. I don't know if you came across the whole "If you don't like it, then leave" mentality but there is a whole group of people against people of different backgrounds and religions immigrating if they won't then conform to "the Australian way of life". I have been reading all your blogs though and it looks like you are having a pretty amazing time! Happy travels. Lara
5th February 2010

Kiwi owned.
when your telecomunications are owned by foriegn companies with a monopoly of course you end up with high prices , perhaps that,s why you can,t find free internet . In Germany people proudly buy german made things, cars for example. In a new and young country like New Zealand manny things once owned by kiwis have been sold to foreign interests as part of the so called free trade agreements with countries such as the United states . It,s not surpriseing that the few things we still produce and own ourselves are proudly advertised as Kiwi . Most of what you buy in NZ is made in China. when you buy NZ made you are supporting NZ jobs thus NZ people and families and our own economy. I would think that a cleaver chappy such as yourself would have figured that out for yourself, da. Keep up the travels and stating the obvious, as a travel writer you could take some lessons perhaps from Paul therough, at least hes got some humour thrown in with witty sarcasm. but germans arent best noted for this I believe. Patrick G
25th August 2010
Healthy patriotism or foreigner-phobia?

frankly I would have been okay if it was only 98% Kiwi owned but its nice of them to go the extra mile :D. There is patriotism and then there is xenophobia

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