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A New York Times article says New Zealand's clean, green tourism branding is as "fantastical as dragons and wizards" and clashes with reality.
In the build-up to the release of The Hob-bit film this month, Tourism New Zealand released Hobbit-themed advertisements promoting 100 per cent pure New Zealand showing picturesque scenes of the country's bush and rivers.
But, according to a recent New York Times article, the images portrayed "might not be exactly warranted".
"There are almost two worlds in New Zealand," Mike Joy, a senior lecturer in environmental science at New Zealand's Massey University in Palmerston North, told the newspaper.
"There is the picture-postcard world, and then there is the reality."
Last month the New Zealand environment ministry released a survey showing more than half the country's freshwater recreational sites were unsafe to swim in, largely due to the contamination by the dairy industry.
The New York Times article says the government was "desperate" to have The Hobbit filmed in New Zealand after the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy which pumped $NZ400 million ($A317 million) into the economy, through tourism, in 2004.
Pure Advantage, a nonprofit group promoting green business, estimates the country will overtake the United States in per capita emissions in less than eight years, putting it almost into the world's top 10.
Tourism New Zealand spokesman Gregg Anderson said the campaign was not misleading international tourists as it was never just about the environment, it was also about the experience.