Instagram model defends 'sacred' river swimming picture after backlash

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An Instagram model has defended a photograph showing her wading in a river after accusations she bathed in a banned spot.

Cleo Codrington has gained a 135,000-strong following for her photos snapped in remote natural beauty spots around the world.

Her latest travels took her to New Zealand, where she posted shots with captions like “It’s no wonder they filmed Lord Of the Rings here… this place is absolute magic.”

But it was one particular snap that quickly attracted negative attention from locals suspicious about the location.

In one post, Codrington is pictured emerging from crystalline waters surrounded by native New Zealand ferns in the photo.

She tagged the location of the Instagram snap simply as “New Zealand,” with the caption: “Just me surrounded by nature – the way I like it,” along with a plug for the paua-shell necklaces she is selling online.

Kiwis were quick to pile into the post’s comments section, claiming to recognise the spot as Te Waihou Blue Spring, in the country’s North Island.

The spring has a swimming ban because its internet fame saw it swamped by visitors.

Swimming in the fragile South Waikato habitat has been banned since 2016 due to the ‘negative impact on the vegetation in the riverbed and on the banks, as well as the visual amenity.’

“Please NEVER swim there. That spring is sacred,” one commenter wrote on the Instagram post.

But  Codrington denied swimming in the spring, and hit back against commenters, who also criticised her for advertising her jewellery collection in tags on the post.

She and her boyfriend, fellow Instagrammer Mitch Cox, claimed they had been swimming in another river at a popular hiking location more than 100km away in the Bay of Plenty region.

“This was at the Tarawera falls River NOT Blue Springs,” Ms Codrington wrote on Instagram.

“I didn’t want to reveal the location because I’m a big believer in preserving the hidden gems and the environment, not all places should be geotagged.

“The last thing the environment needs is another overpopulated hotspot.”

So-called ‘travel influencers’ have attracted criticism in New Zealand, which has traded on its “100% Pure” natural beauty in past tourism marketing campaigns.

Despite the marketing of its crystal-clear waters and green mountain ranges, the health of its waterways is diminishing.

Environmentalists blame commercial water-bottling activities and intensive dairy farming.

While some are pleased at the tourism influencers’ promotion of New Zealand – others are uncomfortable at the effects of the boost in tourism on New Zealand’s environment.

Some Kiwis criticise Instagrammers for highlighting hidden beautyspots to huge followings, claiming the crowds bring extra strain on already fragile native eco-systems, and disturb significant Maori sites.

Fiordland National Park in New Zealand, which is famed for its natural beauty

 

That tension was apparent when commenters noticed another shot of  Codrington at a “Mermaid Pools,” a natural infinity pool on Auckland’s coastline.

The NZ Herald reports the pools are on land owned by 35 families – some of whom use the water for drinking.

The popularity  beautyspots, like Blue Springs, have forced local authorities to impose restrictions as visitors descend in hordes eager to imitate the picturesque snaps of Instagram stars.

There are now multiple signs warning of the swimming ban at the natural ‘taonga’ (a Maori term meaning ‘treasure’).

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