PM’s message: Snow me the money and tourists

Anyone who saw Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern when she was in Dunedin last week would have thought to themselves, "that’s a person who needs a holiday".

Ms Ardern did get to a holiday resort yesterday, but her trip to Queenstown was for business not pleasure, as she travelled to Coronet Peak to spruik the Government’s decision to bring forward its self-imposed timeline for when vaccinated tourists can come to New Zealand.

While there are plenty of tourism destinations closer to Wellington, or her hometown of Auckland for that matter, the choice of Queenstown for the relaunch of international tourism was no accident.

For a start, tourism operators in the resort have been the longest and loudest commentators on the impact that the pandemic, in general, and Covid-19 regulations, specifically, have had on their businesses.

The Government has always maintained it has been listening to their plight, but some Queenstown and Wanaka business owners remain sceptical on that point — the twin lake towns are each in National-held electorates, so their doubts might not come as too much of a surprise.

But the Labour leader arrived in person, rather than sending Tourism Minister Stuart Nash in her stead, to stress that New Zealand will be open for business again within a few weeks.

This was meant to symbolise something domestically, but she was also glancing further afield as she spoke.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the snow during a 2020 visit to Cardrona. Yesterday she was at...
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the snow during a 2020 visit to Cardrona. Yesterday she was at nearby Coronet Peak celebrating the imminent return of tourists to southern ski resorts. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Back in the good old days when people used to regularly fly on aeroplanes between countries, Australian visitors made up 40% of the New Zealand tourism market and spent about $2.5 billion while they were here.

About half of Australian tourists begin their trip in the South Island and more than half of them come to Queenstown first.

Which was why Ms Ardern chose to host Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Queenstown before the short-lived transtasman bubble was popped, and why she was back in town again yesterday.

With political turmoil buffeting Europe, Ms Ardern and local tourism operators dearly hope our Aussie chums will pass up a visit to the northern hemisphere this year in favour of a trip to their Anzac neighbours.

With economic turmoil buffeting New Zealand, and a hopefully lucrative ski season on the horizon should the pandemic permit, Ms Ardern was on the hunt for the perfect soundbite to entice some Ockers to our shores.

Of course, economic recovery from Covid-19 will not be achieved in one ski season, but you have to start somewhere and a Coronet Peak press conference - and maybe the exploits of the Winter Olympic skiers who train at nearby Cardrona - are hopefully progressive first steps.

Head to head

David Clark
David Clark
To another great rivalry: between National Dunedin list MP Michael Woodhouse and Dunedin Labour MP Dr David Clark.

Fate has a surprisingly firm insistence that the two men be lined up against each other in whatever portfolios and spokesmanship roles they are assigned, and National’s post-Collins reshuffle lined them up against each other once again.

Mr Woodhouse, with his statistics spokesman hat on, fired the first shot in the resumption of this storied contest this week with a bold prediction that the 2023 census would be delayed.

Michael Woodhouse
Michael Woodhouse
Dr Clark, a more enthusiastic minister of statistics than seems humanly possible, will indeed oversee the 2023 census ... and will no doubt be acutely aware that the 2018 edition was a complete pig’s breakfast.

Proper statistics are vital for efficient government and, arguably, the gaps left by the 2018 census have hindered that noble aim.

Dr Clark’s replies to written questions by Mr Woodhouse contain worrying terms such as "ongoing challenge" and a less than reassuring assertion that Stats NZ is "currently on track to meet key milestones".

Some might wonder why this matters, but the problems which beset the 2018 census were a political embarrassment for then minister James Shaw and Mr Woodhouse no doubt hopes Dr Clark will encounter similar problems.

The way we were

The Treaty settlement process allows for restitution for iwi throughout New Zealand.

National’s settlement spokesman, Southland MP Joseph Mooney, has taken a crash course in Maori history since assuming the role, but sometimes, such as this week when speaking on the Ngati Rangitihi Claims Settlement Act, he could draw on personal experience.

"The Tarawera Awa Restoration Strategy Group will support, co-ordinate and promote the integrated restoration of the mauri and wellbeing of the Tarawera River catchment," he said.

"I will just say that I spent some of my childhood in this region and remember well going to Tarawera River as a child and I look forward to the future growth and wellbeing of that river, which is a very important part of the settlement."

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

 

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