New Zealand asks travelers to sign environmental promise

'Tiaki Promise' based on Maori word for 'to guard'

By THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THIS STORY REFERRED TO THE TIAKI PROMISE AS A DOCUMENT. VISITORS TO NEW ZEALAND WILL NOT BE ASKED OR REQUIRED TO SIGN ANY SUCH PROMISE.
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(CNN) - New Zealand is known for its strict environmental rules and regulations.

Already, people who travel to the country have to go through rigorous screening when they arrive to ensure they haven't brought in any outside plants or foods that might affect New Zealand's environment.

Now, visitors to New Zealand are can go one step further by agreeing to the "Tiaki Promise," wherein they pledge to be good stewards of the environment during their trip.

"Tiaki" means "to guard" in the Māori language, and it informs the Māori principle of being responsible for caring for the land.

"The idea of tourism in New Zealand is bigger than the border process," Stephen England-Hall, CEO of Tourism New Zealand, explains to CNN Travel.

He notes that the promise isn't a list of "do this" and "don't do that" guidelines that will remind you of a classroom chore chart -- rather, it's a way of putting people in a certain mindset when they arrive in the country.

Travelers can learn about the Tiaki Promise ahead of vacationing by going on Tourism New Zealand's website, checking out the dedicated Tiaki website and while traveling internationally on Air New Zealand, where a video about the mission will be shown on flights.

"Tiaki talks to guidelines or guiding principles about how we would like people to behave when they're in New Zealand. The idea is that we have a deep and symbiotic relationship with our environment here in New Zealand. You are welcome to come and to experience our landscape, but we want you to please be mindful of the fact that it's a really important place."

Getting into the Kiwi mindset may just help you have a great vacation, too.

According to the United Nations, New Zealand is the eighth happiest country in the world, with easy access to nature being one of the key reasons.

Even its national airline, Air New Zealand, encourages people to relax and be kind to each other -- while still following air safety guidelines, of course. After all, when you have to spend 17 hours in the sky, it helps to spend it alongside people who are polite.

To England-Hall, tiaki is about both the little things (hey, remember they drive on the left here!) as well as the big ones (being kind to others).

And if you get so into the mindset that you just can't bear to leave the country, we hear there's a town up for sale.

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