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WELLINGTON, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Tourism and dairy are New Zealand's two biggest export earners, but for how long can they develop in tandem?

That's the question some in the tourism sector are starting to ask as the nation wakes up to damage inflicted on many of its lakes, rivers and streams by the intensification and expansion of dairy farming over the last two decades.

Both sectors have traded on the country's "clean and green" reputation: one drawing visitors with images of idyllic, pristine landscapes Cheap Jason Williams Jersey , and the other branding its products with bucolic, rural scenes.

But dairy's dominance in export earnings had enabled the sector to ride out growing concern over the changes wreaked on the environment until global dairy prices began their plunge last year.

That, along with the sharp growth in overseas visitors to New Zealand, a drive to encourage free independent travellers to explore more of the country, and tourism's emergence as the top export earner in the year to September 2015 are stirring a change in attitudes.


"The dairy sector is really important to New Zealand -- don't doubt that for a second -- but tourism is also Cheap Vlade Divac Jersey , and there has to be a happy medium," said Tourism Export Council New Zealand (TECNZ) president Martin Horgan.

"We don't want to see the dairy industry suffer, but we also want them to be responsible and to clean up any mess that they've made."

Last month, TECNZ, a trade association representing the inbound tourism industry Cheap Peja Stojakovic Jersey , pledged its "political and financial support" to the Choose Clean Water Tour campaign to document the condition of more than 25 lakes and rivers around the country and how the continuing pollution of waterways was affecting people and the environment.

Campaigners would also be collecting signatures for a petition to push for stronger protection at a time when freshwater legislation is under review, and calling for the minimum standard for waterways to be raised from the current "wadeable" to "swimmable."

Horgan said that the country's conservation areas still boasted some of the best water quality and most pristine environments in the world, "but outside of those areas in some of the more agriculturally focused parts of the country, we do have concerns about the quality of New Zealand's waterways."

"We definitely feel there's been some degradation of our waterways and we would hate to see that continue," Horgan told Xinhua by phone.

"There's two parts to that: one Cheap Oscar Robertson Jersey , as New Zealanders, we want to protect our country and I want my kids to be able to go to the river and have a swim; and secondly, if our reputation as a clean, green environmentally sensitive country was to suffer -- and I really don't think it is at the moment -- it would most definitely be bad for the tourism industry."


The tourism industry needed to "protect its patch" and the government was not heeding concerns despite moves to encourage farmers to fence off and plant alongside waterways to prevent contamination.

"We're seeing a massive spike in visitor arrivals to New Zealand at the moment and there's a much wider distribution of tourists throughout New Zealand than ever before," he said.

"There is the opportunity for people Cheap Mike Bibby Jersey , our clients, to be exposed to waterways that are in less than perfect shape. We also don't want the situation where media offshore in years to come were to, for example, say 'Well, hang on Cheap Mitch Richmond Jersey , New Zealand is not living up to its clean, green environmental promise, look at this.' That would most definitely have a detrimental effect."

Experts and scientists have issued repeated warnings about the contamination of New Zealand's fresh waterways.

In 2013, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright issued a report that warned of "weeds, slime and algae" clogging waterways if the country continued to sacrifice its "clean green" brand to greater returns from dairy.

She followed up with a second report last year saying the pollution of waterways caused predominantly by nutrients used in dairy farming had likely been "underpredicted" in the 2013 report.

To its credit Cheap Zach Randolph Jersey , the government had invested heavily in developing policy to improve the management of fresh water, Wright said, but "in many places, water quality continues to decline."


Dr. Mike Joy, of Massey University's Institute of Agriculture and Environment and a prominent advocate for cleaning up New Zealand's waterways Cheap Buddy Hield Jersey , was instrumental in stirring the TECNZ into action.

"In our conservation estate, in our national parks, we have the best rivers in the world. The part where the tourists are going has nothing wrong with it," Joy told Xinhua by phone.

"At the other end, it's a shocker."

Joy said the government had "their heads in the sand" regarding the environmental consequences of a policy to double agricultural production.

"The free independent travellers are going to see much more of the reality and they're not going to like what they see Cheap DeMarcus Cousins Jersey ," he said.

"I don't know what tourists expect, but certainly what New Zealanders expect is that you can go swimming at anywhere you can get public access to. So many of those places now have signs saying it's dangerous."

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