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''It does seem ironic, doesn't it?'' Buller Mayor Garry Howard said yesterday from the heart of coal mining territory.
A tourism report released this week by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment warns of growing concern about carbon emissions from long-haul flights.
''Given New Zealand's distance from most source markets, the potential implications for our international tourism industry of travellers' carbon emission concerns is not to be ignored; careful reflection by our tourism industry is required to support our long-term visitation proposition,'' the report says.
Forest and Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said the answer is for New Zealanders to stay home.
''The way I look at it is that every New Zealander we can persuade to holiday at home is just as valuable to our economy as someone coming from overseas,'' Mr Hague said.
''In fact, they may have more money to spend in local economies because they haven't spent it on international flights.'' It would be ''a win for everyone'' - except the international airlines, he said.
Mr Hague, a cyclist, said when promoting the creation of cycle touring infrastructure one of his main points was to hold domestic tourists in a location, spending money in local economies for longer.
''I arrived in New Zealand in 1973. Some time before we arrived there was a domestic tourism promotion with the slogan 'Don't leave town till you've seen the country'. So we've done it before.''
Minerals West Coast manager Patrick Phelps said international tourism accounted for 8% of total global greenhouse gas emissions and was actually one of the fastest growing carbon emitters with such rapid growth it was cancelling out technological improvements.
Coal-related emissions in New Zealand had been falling and were now 10% of New Zealand's energy-related emissions - a return to levels of the 1990s - and constituted 4% of New Zealand's total emissions.
''This is not due to displacement by renewables but owing to a cheap supply of natural gas, which makes up more of New Zealand's emissions profile than coal,'' Mr Phelps said.
Tourism's carbon footprint had grown as poorer countries had become rich ones, especially China.
He said international long-haul flights were only part of the picture. Once tourists arrived, there was also domestic travel.
Mr Howard said he watched as 1000 jobs were stripped from the West Coast when coal prices collapsed, followed by calls to replace the lost jobs with tourism. Now tourists are concerned about their carbon footprint.
''There's a difficulty there. I fully understand the irony of the situation.''
He said the Coast should not be pushed into a reliance on tourism.
There needed to be stronger diversification into things such as aquaculture and digital technology.
''We should be able to claim substantial carbon credits from our conservation estate.''
Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said it was a fact of life that people had to travel.
''People aren't going to take a boat everywhere.
''Some things are untouchable. There's going to be air travel because everyone uses it.
''That's the problem with the world we live in ... (but) coalmining is a dirty word.''