Living without the boat people

Diary of the last 10 hours


The pop-up leader of the opposition is in my morning news talking about the lady from the cover of Time and going poor wee thing and come back into the kitchen ya wuss and generally being all staunch.

Fair enough, I suppose, her otherwise plodding schtick becomes much livelier copy when she chucks in some Xmas Panto bravado:

I will crush so many cars you will not believe it

That person who put out our lying Facebook memes will know all about it when I see them in morning tell you what 

It's a nice easy free hit, because the gallery will run that shit and and it’ll just be ages before they come back and ask:

Hey btw how many cars did you actually crush


Btw what happened to the junior staffer that was going to be getting your stiletto as a chair?

And when they eventually do ask, you just say, airily:

Oh, well it was, three cars actually and well nothing really he’s still in there churning out the lying memes lol, but that's not what I want to talk about today, here watch me pull all of Twyford’s intestines out ! Yeah well alright they’re just saveloys but I’d have his guts out quick as look at him if he was here don't you worry about that I’m tough and I get stuff done you can call me Judy the Gutser if you like.

On and on and with the bullshit bantam stuff. On and on with the Mean Girls snark. How much election is there left now, please?


On the phone with Rachel Ashby on the radio talking about the leaders’ debate and just what this one was exactly, and whether there might be other ways you might do them. If I give you the link do you promise to click back? I have things to say about tourists.

Political Commentary w/ David Slack: September 24, 2020


On the phone with Rachel Ashby and looking out at the harbour thinking, man, long time since I saw a cruise ship.

Here in the seaside village, a short ferry ride over from the cruise ship, we get throngs and throngs of them. They meander up one side of the main road and back down the other with a slightly resigned expression that says: when does the excitement start, is this the place, I guess not. They sit in one of our 400 cafes and you think: how could we make this more interesting for them, apart from taking them to an open home and getting another coffee?

I wrote about this, back before the plague, with the irony button turned up to 11, talking about fresh possibilities in tourism:

The jobs are there, plenty of them: driving jetboats, making cocktails, changing bed sheets, opening doors. Kia ora, nau mai haere mai! Welcome, welcome. Thrice welcome, plus GST.  

But are we making the most of this goldrush? Or are we only selling them shovels when we could be inventing Levi denims? 

I went on to suggest some bullshit attractions we might like to  light up.

But now the question is in earnest: what now, for tourism? And is this huge freeze a chance to remake it in a better way?

Anita McNaught was on the Twitter last weekend with some hard questions:

Greg Jackson added: 

Policy wonk pal of mine working for peanuts in aid and development did a global analysis of tourism once and concluded it's closest relation was the mining industry.

Anita also wondered: 

Could it be approached like Ag & Fish? Import  controls to ensure we get visitors who do no harm to our environment or society. Quotas so we don’t over-exploit the ‘resource’. This is no place for a ‘free market’ ...or an auction.

Can we remake it? There's a lot to be considered, plenty at stake, jobs and livelihoods, and a whole lot of people who will surely not take kindly to the suggestion that they should give up their sweet number. 

But if not now, when? While the closed borders have cut off a market worth north of 17 billion a year, we ourselves spend more than 10 billion each year being tourists somewhere else. If we spent that here, the crisis could be much diminished.

 Let’s pick up where this newsletter left off a few weeks ago:

What if much of what we have been offering to our 4 million tourists is not all that amazing, maybe even a bit shit? What if those pretty average tourist offerings were really only flourishing because the people who had come ten thousand miles were thinking with a defeated shrug: come all this way, might as well look at it.

If that can now be tested in a market where local tourists can say yeah, or yeah nah,  that might be a chance to really get wheels moving in new ways, and get local money circulating into the hands of the revenue-choked.

The discussion that ensued on Twitter had a wealth of thought about what’s sustainable; what’s viable; what’s tenable; and how you might remake things. I especially liked this:

I have a suggestion to make, along those lines, founded on an absolute certainty: everyone - and I do mean every single last person - loves to hear a story. You say once upon a time and they lean in.

I believe if we get to really telling our stories, stuff that really moves you, people will lean in. 

You tell the story to people as you walk them over maunga, as you paddle down a river, as you climb into the mountains, as you stroll them through leafy streets. You talk, you share what you know, the strange,  the remarkable,  the chilling, the bizarre, the inspiring, the hilarious, the stuff that puts a lump in your throat. You take your time, you bring it all to life. So much has happened here. You will never run short of stories that evoke what it is to be here adrift in these islands. People will come away saying, that was special, or, if they’re on Instagram, OMG you should go, it's the best.

You can make scripts for people who don't know the stories themselves, to share. I’m imagining the kind of storytelling by people like Te Radar unearthing the hilarity ad the humanity that runs all through our history, I’m imagining the work of people like Moana Maniapoto telling the stories of the treaty negotiators. I’m imagining people like Dave Veart who can stand on the slopes of the maunga where we live and tell you about the people who have stood here before us.

You tell stories of this place and the people who came here, you make it compelling, you stand people where this things happened, and you say once upon a time, and they lean in.

History, told well, enthralls people. We have an abundance of stories here to share. And then you wrap around that everything else: the food, the accommodation, the walks, the splendid isolation.

Why not start there and build up around it, taking ideas from all over?

Why not, for example, this:

Can we remake tourism into something better? I hope so.


Another note about what’s ahead. I’ll be turning on the payment system for this little newsletter operation on Monday 28 Sept.

It’ll be 7.99 a month, for a daily newsletter coming to you Monday through Friday and a column on Sunday mornings. Free newsletters will still go out on Mondays and Thursdays.

Once the new option is turned on, this site will let you make your choice: free or paid. It’s all very simple and straightforward and easy, promise.

And thank you to everyone who’s been in touch. I really appreciate the support.