Tourists trampling on New Zealand’s tranquility

New Zealand’s adventure tourism industry is already under intense scrutiny over last week’s White Island volcanic eruption. (File/AFP)
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Updated 18 December 2019

Tourists trampling on New Zealand’s tranquility

  • The South Pacific nation has long marketed itself as “100 percent Pure” and “clean and green,” but has seen a huge growth in visitors in recent years
  • An official said infrastructure was already strained, the environment was under pressure and many of the qualities were disappearing

WELLINGTON: Ever-increasing numbers of tourists are harming New Zealand’s environment and destroying the very qualities that make the country an attractive destination, a parliamentary report warned Wednesday.
The South Pacific nation has long marketed itself as “100 percent Pure” and “clean and green,” but has seen a huge growth in visitors in recent years, from millenials snapping selfies at “Lord of the Rings” filming locations, to climbers, hikers and wildlife enthusiasts.
The report from parliamentary commissioner for the environment Simon Upton comes as New Zealand’s adventure tourism industry is already under intense scrutiny over last week’s White Island volcanic eruption, which killed 16 international travelers and two tour guides.
Upton said New Zealand — with a population of 4.9 million — attracted almost four million international visitors annually and the number could treble by 2050.
He said infrastructure was already strained, the environment was under pressure and many of the qualities associated with New Zealand were disappearing.
“The sheer numbers of people are eroding the sense of isolation, tranquility and access to nature that many overseas tourists seek when visiting New Zealand,” he said.
“We need to ask: ‘Are we in danger of killing the goose that laid the golden egg’?“
Upton said New Zealanders were also part of the problem, pointing out that Kiwis on domestic holidays outnumbered overseas tourists at major holiday spots.
He said New Zealanders had become accustomed to the sight of renowned attractions such as the Tongariro Crossing being “besieged with visitors” and the problem would only intensify.
Upton said for too long the tourism industry had escaped the environmental scrutiny imposed on other sectors such agriculture and mining.
However, there was little incentive for the government to restrain the country’s most lucrative industry, generating about NZ$16.2 billion ($10.7 billion) in export earnings annually.
“We didn’t get to where we are overnight — the phenomenon of crowded sites, crowded skies and crowded parking lots is the result of more than a century’s worth of promotional taxpayer subsidy,” he said.
“What will another three decades of more of the same mean?.”
Upton said more visitors meant more greenhouse gases from flights to New Zealand and more waste entering the country’s waterways, as well as a higher risk of tourists importing pests and bio-security hazards.
Upton’s role as commissioner is to produce independent reports highlighting issues facing the environment for parliament, rather than the government of the day.
He said he only highlighted problems in the report, and planned to wait for feedback then put forward solutions in a follow-up paper.
Trade body Tourism Industry Aotearoa said it was committed to sustainability and agreed with Upton’s assessment that new approaches were needed to manage environmental impacts.
“Nobody wants tourism at all costs... we want to work with our communities to shape the tourism future they want,” TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said in a statement.


Trump calls for investigation into allegations of voter fraud in Minnesota

Updated 29 September 2020

Trump calls for investigation into allegations of voter fraud in Minnesota

  • Right-wing website claims activists linked to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s campaign are involved in illegal ‘ballet harvesting’

US: US President Donald Trump on Monday called on the Justice Department to investigate allegations of illegal voting activity by activists linked to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s campaign.

The claims were made in a story published on Sunday by right-wing website Project Veritas, the founder and CEO of which is Conservative activist James O’Keefe. It alleges that workers with connections to Omar were involved in illegal “ballot harvesting” in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which she has represented since 2019, and that some voters were paid to vote for Democratic candidates.

Ballot harvesting refers to a practice in which a third party collects completed absentee ballots from voters’ homes and drops them off at polling stations. This is not illegal in many states, but there are often limits on how many ballots one person can harvest.

In a message posted on Twitter, Trump said: “This is totally illegal. Hope that the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota has this, and other of her many misdeeds, under serious review??? If not, why not???”

The Project Veritas story, which was published on the same day as the New York Times published details of Trump’s tax returns, includes details of a series of videos it said was posted on Snapchat in early July by Liban Mohammed, the brother of Minneapolis City Council member Jamal Osman. In them, he talks about harvesting ballots to help his brother in an Aug. 11 city council election.

He said, in a mix of English and Somali: “Money is everything. Money is the king in this world. If you got no money, you should not be here, period. You know what i am saying? Money is everything and a campaign is managed by money … numbers do not lie. Numbers do not lie.

“You can see my car is full. All these here are absentee ballots … all of these are for Jamal Osman. Look, look. Just today we got 300 (ballots) for Jamal Osman.”

O’Keefe claimed that the extent of the ballot harvesting was astounding.

“Ballot harvesting is real and it has become a big business,” he said. “Our investigation into this ballot-harvesting ring demonstrates clearly how these unscrupulous operators exploit the elderly and immigrant communities — and have turned the sacred ballot box into a commodities trading desk.

“We are showing Americans what is really going on in one of our great cities — but, it's not me saying — we have the operators on tape saying it all themselves.”

Last month, Omar won the 5th Congressional District’s Democratic Primary and will face Republican Lacy Johnson in the Nov. 3, 2020 General Election. The district — which was previously held by Keith Ellison, who is now Minnesota’s Attorney General — is overwhelmingly Democratic and Omar is expected to easily win.

Omar’s office did not respond to a request for a comment about the Project Veritas story. Newsweek reported that a spokesperson for the congresswoman stated that Mohammed does not work for her.

In response to Trump’s tweet, Omar wrote: “Years of tax evasion … Trying to rush through the confirmation of a right-wing extremist Supreme Court nominee … Lies and inaction that have lead to the preventable deaths of 200,000 people. This is what we’re up against. Stay focused.”

Minnesota is one of several “battleground states” in the upcoming presidential election, in which the result is expected to be very close. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the state with 46.4 percent of the vote to Trump’s 44.9 percent — a difference of only 44,593 votes.