Two Brazilian tourists who were doused with herbicide by a helicopter spraying gorse over the Heaphy Track deserve at least an apology, says New Zealand’s Labor Tourism spokesperson Kelvin Davis.
“The last thing New Zealand needs is for this couple to leave our country hurt and angry that we dumped on them and ignored them,” Kelvin Davis said.
Caroline Leone and husband Rodrigo Ferreira Santos from São Paulo, Brazil, claim chemicals were showered on them while hiking, say New Zealand’s “clean, green” image is a joke.
The told reporters they had saved for their trip-of-a-lifetime to New Zealand imagining that it “was the perfect place for experiencing beautiful nature, amazing national parks and great landscapes”.
What happened is that while they were hiking the Heaphy Track, a New Zealand natural treasure, before Christmas they and others were shocked to experience a “rain of chemicals” from a helicopter spraying gorse.
Ms Leone said they were aware of a helicopter and airplane flying directly overhead for the entire five-hour hike back to Kohaihai and thought it was due so some rescue. When they got to Kohaihai, however, they saw a sign warning about aerial spraying of gorse.
“I have no word to describe the anger I feel right now,” said Ms Leone who suffers from a medical condition which is made worse by herbicides and pesticides.
“We could not believe what had just happened to us. We find it completely unacceptable and disrespectful as well as a deep violation of our rights not to be told that we were going to be exposed to any chemical spraying whilst tramping in a national park.”
Kelvin Davis seems quiet mortified: “Our reputation as a clean, green country is being put at risk like never before with the National government eyeing up parts of the conservation estate for mining and concentration camps for cattle in the McKenzie Country and with its deeply flawed Emissions Trading Scheme. This latest incident further risks our spiraling reputation.
“New Zealand Tourism cannot afford to have this type of incident occur, or if they do occur for the response to be mismanaged.
“These tourists made a deliberate choice to come on their once in a lifetime adventure because of New Zealand’s clean green image. That has well and truly been shattered and someone needs to make amends.
“While these tourists have spoken out, how many others havealso had this happen to them, but just headed back home with a bitter taste in their mouths and a rash from an allergic reaction on their backs?” said Kelvin Davis.
“The Minister of Conservation should be asking serious questions as to how this could be allowed to happen, how to prevent it in future how to improve the response to tourists’ concerns. It’s not good enough to wave them away with bland assurances.
“The Government has just this week invested heavily in promoting specific regions. The last thing we need is for our tax dollars to be negated by a government department with sloppy practices that poison tourists,” Kelvin Davis said.