Just nine days before Wellington's world premiere of The Hobbit film, an environmentalist has launched a scathing attack on a tourism campaign depicting New Zealand as '100% Pure'.
Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science at Massey University Mike Joy told The New York Times that New Zealand's image as a clean, green nation is as "fantastical as dragons and wizards."
"There are almost two worlds in New Zealand... there is the picture-postcard world, and then there is the reality," Joy told America's most well-read daily newspaper.
Joy's comments come as Tourism New Zealand launches its online campaign, which rides on the potential success of the new Hobbit film.
In response to the comments, Tourism New Zealand's General Manager Corporate Affairs, Chris Roberts told ONE News that 100% Pure New Zealand is not an environmental campaign.
"100% Pure New Zealand is about the 'whole package' that visitors get from visiting - not just one part, but all parts together.
"It's the activities, the landscape and the people that combine to make for a uniquely New Zealand - or 100% Pure New Zealand - experience," he said.
Roberts added that results from visitor research showed that international visitors on average give New Zealand's natural landscapes and scenery a rating of 9.5 out of 10.
"This level of satisfaction is consistent with last year's results and the component of a New Zealand experience that receives the highest rating across all markets," said Roberts.
Spectacular vistas and landscapes
Of the new campaign, Justin Watson from Tourism New Zealand says that the 100% Middle Earth advertising takes aspects from the movie and draws parallels with New Zealand.
The online campaign follows a 60-second 100% Middle Earth commercial released in August this year, which is broadcast in key tourist markets including Australia, United Kingdom, United States, China and Germany.
"What phase two of the campaign does is take images from the TV and we've had the guys from Weta Workshop re-illustrate them like they would be in Middle Earth," Watson said.
"Throughout the movie there's spectacular vistas and landscapes which is what New Zealand has so we've taken that from the TV commercial and basically brought it to life in a Middle Earth way."
Watson said the advertisement, which does not contain any film footage or direct references to the movies, was signed off by Warner Brothers.
"Warner Brothers own the assets to the movie and just like any copyright or any brand owner or asset owner they have to have a level of involvement to make sure that how we're depicting their assets that they're comfortable with that," he said.
He said the approval process was quite complicated, but "ultimately they just approve the use of the imagery not the whole campaign".
More than a decade ago, a similar campaign referenced The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which Tourism NZ says was a resounding success, attracting around 2.5 million visitors each year.
Watson said he thinks there will be the same energy around The Hobbit, and there is nothing to say this will not be more successful than the Lord of the Rings campaign.
Watson agreed with criticism that Tourism New Zealand did not jump on the bandwagon early enough for the Lord of the Rings campaign.
"So we looked back and thought how do we get ahead of the curve and ahead of the eight ball on this and do a better job," he said.
Watson said Tourism NZ can detach itself from the movie if it is not as successful.
Tourism NZ has invested around $10 million on producing the new campaign.
The premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be held at Wellington's Embassy Theatre on November 28.