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New Zealand’s tourism and hospitality industries could suffer
if the country’s reliance on branding claims such as ‘clean and
green’ are found to be deficient and the country’s present GE
Free status is threatened.
Retaining New Zealand’s GM free status is a “no brainer”
according to Pure Hawkes Bay, a group of farmers and premium
food producers that recently celebrated victory with the Hastings
District Council’s decision to protect the district’s GM Free food
producer status in the local plan.
Hastings is the first district to formally protect its GE Free
status and there are several other districts poised to replicate the
move in their plans. The group’s euphoria was short lived however
as Federated Farmers has gone to court in a bid to overturn the
policy that took Pure Hawkes Bay five years to secure.
Members of Pure Hawke’s Bay and Federated Farmers, Bruno
Chambers and Will MacFarlane believe Federated Farmers’
national president Dr William Rolleston, “Is swimming against
a rising tide of market resistance to GMOs and wants to drag
Hawke’s Bay farmers with him.”
Advertising supremo and hospitality operator, Havelock North-
based Kim Thorp is co-founder of Assignment, a partnership of
communications experts that works with many of New Zealand’s
most successful companies. He’s also involved with ‘The New
Zealand Story’ for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and the
NZ Government, assisting how this country presents itself to the
world when it comes to exporting.
One recent project canvassed 20 of New Zealand’s largest
primary produce exporters and Thorp says, “Almost without
exception one thing they held in common was the huge
importance they placed on New Zealand’s environmental
reputation to sell their story, to differentiate them from larger
global competitors and to enhance their sales.”
Thorp is also heavily involved in tourism and hospitality through
his Black Barn Vineyards and Bistro; successful developments
which have spawned a whole host of other leading tourism
initiatives in the district.
“In the digital age, we can no longer have it both ways,” he says.
“We can’t attract people through perceptions of a clean and green
environment connected to the food that produces, and then turn
around and literally pollute the reality. It’s now far too easy to find
us out and then broadly socialise those findings.”
The environment is the most significant draw-card to our
country for the vast majority of overseas visitors but once they’re
here, according to Thorp, they’re often blown away by the food,
wine and restaurants on offer, “For most visitors, our natural
environment and hospitality are joined at the hip and New Zealand
is perfectly positioned to maximize this link by embracing the
increasing global reality that ‘natural is the new premium’.”
The executive chef at The Oyster Inn on Waiheke Island, and
a former private chef at 10 Downing Street in London for 10
years, Anthony McNamara believes that what tourists want in a
place like New Zealand is a sense of realness, not necessarily
untouched but certainly undamaged, “A glimpse of what is
perhaps lost in other parts of the world,” he says.
“Nobody wants to stand on the top of Aoraki and look down at
a country up to its neck in the intensive agriculture of GM corn or
soy. The companies involved have nothing to do with New Zealand
and nor should they ever. The greed that fuels the GM food industry
should have no place in hospitality. It seems counterintuitive to me.”
He says once that particular genie – the notion of GM food as a
commercial entity – is out of the bottle, it is never going to be put
back in and the potential results in a remote and unique island
such as New Zealand could be terrible.
And Thorp reckons for the discerning traveller and diner this
country needs to attract, genetically modified food is the exact
opposite of both natural and premium, “If we embrace GMOs, we
had better start looking quite quickly for another way to promote
both our country and the food it produces and serves.”
NZ’s 2015 Clean, Green report card
Black Barn Bistro, Havelock North.
Image by Brian Culy.
BY JES MAGILL
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