Let Me Get Home

26/10/2021

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier is launching a broad investigation into the Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) booking system after receiving hundreds of complaints.

Mr Boshier says he has identified some common themes in about 200 complaints relating to the booking system.

Many of the complaints come from people who are having difficulties around the world obtaining vouchers for places in managed isolation or have concerns about the booking system overall.

“The complaints fit into four broad categories – they claim the allocation system is unlawful, unfit for purpose, unfair, and poorly managed. I have decided to do my own independent investigation into them all.”

“One of the specific complaints is that disabled people are being disadvantaged. I have concerns about whether the online booking system is accessible and whether suitable alternatives are being offered for those who have difficulty using this digital platform.”

Mr Boshier says he has notified the agency in charge of the booking system, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, of his intention to investigate.

“I want to give the public some assurance that the MIQ booking system is working as well as it should.”

“While I could investigate each of these complaints in turn, I don’t believe this is the most efficient way of addressing any underlying issues. That is why I am looking at them together.”

“When a new complaint comes in, my team will assess whether it should be addressed as part of this investigation or investigated and resolved individually.”

Mr Boshier will continue monitoring the wider MIQ system to identify any other interventions that may be needed.

He acknowledges the MIQ system was set up quickly in response to an immediate crisis.

“Border restrictions, along with managed isolation and quarantine facilities, are going to be a fact of life for some time to come.”

“I want to find out how MBIE is responding to these concerns and whether it has a robust plan in place for allocating places in the coming months and years. If there is not, I will recommend it makes improvements.” . . 

The current plan is anything but robust.

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders are stranded overseas, many of them are in desperate situations, all are frustrated by a system that is not fit for purpose.

That people with Covid-19 are being trusted to self-isolate at home when those who are fully vaccinated, have a negative test before they board a flight and when they land, are still have to join the MIQueue to get home and are then subject to 14 days in MIQ makes it worse.

 


The vaxed and the vaxed not

09/09/2021

We’re going to have the option of a vaccination passport by the end of the year:

A vaccine passport is coming. New Zealanders will soon have access to digital proof that they’ve received a Covid-19 vaccination. Colloquially known as a “vaccine passport”, a government-run app will soon be as indispensable as a real passport for international travel. Many countries already require them to sit at a bar or attend a sports game. You can’t climb the Eiffel Tower without one.

Air New Zealand and Qantas have both announced that they’ll eventually require vaccine passports. Proof of vaccination is already a condition of entry for a number of countries around the world. Just as you can’t board many international flights now without the right visa, the vaccine passport will be added to your pre-flight checklist. . . 

It will start as a requirement for overseas travel but it won’t stop there.

The health ministry has been clear that New Zealand’s passport is designed for international travel and said nothing about domestic use. Based on how the passports have evolved around the world, that won’t last.

What’s happened overseas. The UK rolled out the passports for international travel, only to then announce that they’ll be required to get into English nightclubs and other venues in England at the end of the month, the BBC has reported. Despite criticisms, the government has said it’s the only way to reopen the economy safely. In many cases, private industry was ahead of the British parliament, with Premier League clubs requiring fans to show proof of vaccination when they reopened stadiums to capacity crowds last month. . . 

Sooner or later there’s going to be more freedom here for people who have been vaccinated and people who haven’t.

If people aren’t vaccinated because they choose not to be, they will have to change their minds or have less freedom.

But what about people who can’t be vaccinated, or who want to be vaccinated but can’t have the  Pfizer vaccine?:

As the team of five million flood into vaccine centres each day to get their shots, a small group are unable to get the Pfizer mRNA vaccine.

They are not conspiracy theorists, or anti-vaxxers. They just need an alternative to Pfizer due to an ingredient in the mRNA vaccine that allows it to be stored at very low temperatures without freezing. . . 

Then there are people who find it difficult to get to a vaccination centre, at least some of whom are Maori.

David Seymour raised the ire of many by tweeting the code sent to Maori allowing them to bypass the booking system.

The irate didn’t mention, or maybe didn’t know, that he is Maori. Heather du Plessis Allan pointed out that irony and added:

David Seymour is about the same age as I am, he’s Nga Puhi, I’m boring old Pakeha. Do you think he should get a Maori access code to get the jab earlier than me simply because he’s Maori?  

There’s very little difference in our risk indicators for Covid. 

Same age band, neither have health problems that bump us up the priority list, neither working on the front lines, neither living in over-crowded houses etc. 

Should he get an access code simply because he’s Maori?  

I think most of us would say no. 

Because everything about David Seymour’s life tells us he’s not an especially vulnerable individual. 

And yet he is lumped in as a member of a vulnerable community because of his tipuna, or ancestors. 

Doesn’t that show the foolishness of making rules based on race?

It does, and that code isn’t the best way of reaching those who are missing out.

If you want to lift Maori vaccine rates – and I think we all do – there are better ways to do that without creating the division that the government is. 

If the broader Maori community is statistically more vulnerable because it has a greater incidence of health problems or home overcrowding, give people with health problems or overcrowded houses priority access to jabs.  We already do this for age and health and pregnancy and essential workers so it’s not impossible to extend the criteria a bit. 

If the Maori community generally has greater difficulty getting to the jab, take the jab to them and every other community that has the same problem. 

If the Maori community has a greater distrust of authority, get marae to administer the jab and then while you’re at it, do the same at churches because we know evangelical church members of every colour also tend to distrust authority.  . . 

It’s not only Maori who aren’t able to go to vaccination centers. A friend who works in a medical practice had a phone call from a patient who is housebound.

If we’re to have as many people as possible vaccinated, there must be alternative vaccines for those who want to be protected but can’t have the Pfizer one; and vaccinators are going to have to go to communities and individuals who for a variety of reasons can’t, or simply aren’t, going to vaccination centres.

The government is also going to have to come up with something for people who can’t be vaccinated and something other than an app for people who don’t have smart phones.

Once everyone who wants to be vaccinated is vaccinated, those who choose not to be will find their right to that choice will almost certainly restrict what they can do and where they can do it.

It would be unfair if people who can’t be vaccinated or don’t have smart phones were similarly disadvantaged.


There are better ways to run MIQ

16/08/2021

The government’s be kind mantra doesn’t extend to MIQ:

A Napier father caring for his sick 11-year-old in the US says they’ll swim home if that’s what it takes after being declined an emergency MIQ spot.

It comes after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received an open letter on behalf of almost 2000 Kiwis abroad calling for immediate and urgent changes to the MIQ system.

Maddox Preston was just nine when he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. He’s had four brain surgeries and two rounds of chemo in New Zealand but the tumour keeps coming back.

“The prognosis wasn’t good but hey we gotta keep fighting,” his father Chad Preston says.

That fight led Maddox, now 11, and his family to fly to the US city of Houston six weeks ago so he could undergo potentially lifesaving treatment.

Now they’re stuck there, unable to get a spot in managed isolation.

Their application for an emergency MIQ spot was bolstered by letters from doctors in the US and from Starship Hospital, yet it’s been declined.

“We’re not asking for any special treatment or anything like that, we just want to come home and continue to care for our son,” Chad says. . . 

If a child who had to go overseas for cancer treatment doesn’t qualify for an emergency spot in MIQ who does? And why when so many New Zealanders can’t come home are their exemptions approved?

. . . Although the names of those famous MIQ-wranglers the Wiggles, America’s Cup crews, actors, nannies and tribute bands have been well publicised, more recent events and programmes approved by ministers are less well-known.

On top of these pressures, public health advice on separating returnees is expected to lead to a 15% fall in supply.

Documents obtained by RNZ show overseas participants in a mountain bike festival are the latest group to be approved for places in managed isolation.

The Government has approved 70

foreign athletes and staff who will attend November’s Crankworx event in Rotorua for MIQ places.

Also on the approved list were 60 international competitors, staff and media taking part in the Winter Games starting in Queenstown and Wanaka at the end of this month. . . 

Day by day the list of New Zealanders who can’t come home and problems trying to get MIQ spots grows. The system is not fit for purpose  and there are better ways to manage applications including this one from Heather Roy:

New Zealand’s MIQ (Managed Isolation and Quarantine) is a shambles and I have a solution to propose.  Hand MIQ over to the airlines.

Imagine this. You are a New Zealand citizen or resident and want to come home. Perhaps because there is an emergency situation in your family or a loved one has died. Maybe it’s just time to return while the pandemic continues to ravage the world. You go to the airline website and book a flight AND an MIQ place at the same time. It’s a package deal. (BOOM, done! as my kids would say). A utopian dream or could this really be possible?

The reality is far from the scenario just described. For those who haven’t had to walk the MIQ booking tightrope it goes something like this. Travellers need to decide whether to book a flight first or book an MIQ slot. Neither is of any use without the other so there’s a chicken and egg dilemma. MIQ places are much harder to get than flights so most travellers book several places on the MIQ website with the intention of cancelling those not needed later. Then the search for a flight begins – travellers need to find one that arrives on the same date matching an MIQ booking arrival. This can take hours online. MBIE isn’t sympathetic to the matching problem, merely commenting new dates are released frequently. True, but irrelevant as new booking dates are often snapped up in seconds. Those not lucky enough to be online at the right moment miss out. It’s not uncommon for the website to crash and travellers can be penalised for booking too many MIQ places. One woman told me she had been banned from the website for a period because she had booked too many slots while she searched for a flight, unable to find any that landed on the same day as places she had reserved. In short it is a very bad video game of ‘Speed Dating Roulette’.

Daily there are heart-wrenching stories of kiwis unable to book MIQ places despite heroic efforts to do so. Many New Zealanders abroad feel they have been abandoned with an MIQ booking system that is broken, is fully booked for months ahead and when limited spaces do become available these are taken in seconds. A very frustrated group of kiwis living overseas launched The Grounded Kiwis Petition  a few days ago.  . . 

Last week we got a peek into how the future of travel might be which could include short MIQ stays and self-isolation for people who are fully vaccinated and have been to countries where the risk of contracting Covid-19 is low.

Those on the green list won’t be numerous which will still leave many thousands of New Zealanders trying to get home.

The swift and deadly spread of the Delta variant has put paid to ideas that life will get back to normal quickly. Medical researchers are now suggesting it could be several years before we’re able to travel freely again.

That requires more MIQ facilities, preferably at lest some purpose-built, and a much better and fairer booking system for MIQ.

It also requires those who hold sway over emergency applications to extend kindness to people like Maddox and his family.


Why were we waiting?

07/04/2021

At last we will be able to cross back and forwards across the Tasman without the need to quarantine from April 19th.

Why has it taken so long?

. . . On Tuesday Jacinda Ardern announced the Director-General of Health, Doctor Ashley Bloomfield, deemed the risk of transmission of Covid-19 from Australia to New Zealand is “low and that quarantine-free travel is safe to commence’’.

But on further inquiry from Newsroom, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed he’d been in regular discussions with Bloomfield for six months and the health boss’ “assessment that Australia’s a low-risk country has been consistent for some time’’.

The hold-up was Bloomfield’s advice that “the systems have not been in place to allow for safe green zone travel both ways between both countries’’.

The systems officials have been working on have been focused on airports and how travellers make the trip from one end to the other safely, keeping bubble travellers separate from other incoming flights that may have Covid-positive passengers, and the contact tracing and processes for opening, pausing and in some cases closing the bubble if there were an outbreak in either country.

Talk to airports and they’ll tell you they’ve had their systems ready to go since August last year when health officials gave the all-clear to Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington.

The only advice the Ministry of Health has come back to airports with since then is extra cleaning when the bubble opens up, and other routine measures.

In the case of Wellington Airport, no managed isolation and quarantine flights land directly in the capital from overseas countries, so mitigating risks around mixing up trans-Tasman passengers with those potentially exposed overseas is and always has been non-existent.

And despite the political pressure ramping up from both National and ACT, the Government has been happy to continue with the go-slow citing a “cautious’’ approach in the name of public health and safety.

The reality is other than tourism operators and those whose businesses are directly impacted by tourist arrivals, most other New Zealanders accept it’s worth taking the time to get it right. . . 

In other words the government didn’t want to risk any political capital, preferring to pander to the fearful rather than promoting the low risk of opening a Trans-Tasman bubble.

It put polls before people – the ones separated from family and friends, the ones who couldn’t get to visit ill relatives before they died, the ones who couldn’t go to funerals, the ones who missed celebrations.

And it played on the pandemic paranoia for political gain with no heed for the financial and emotional stress tourism businesses, their owners and staff are under nor for the economic cost to the country of the needless delay.


Announcing an announcement again

23/03/2021

This isn’t a parody account.

This is a mainstream news outlet announcing the date of a forthcoming announcement.

Meanwhile families and friends are separated, marriages postponed, and people aren’t able to visit the dying and attend funerals.

Add to the personal cost, the dire state of many tourism businesses which need a firm date so they can work out whether or not they can hold on to staff, or even survive.

We don’t need an announcement of an announcement, we need to know when we can travel across the Tasman without having to endure MIQ on the return trip.

Few question the goal of keeping Covid-19 out of the country, but most Australian states have had no community transmission for longer than New Zealand.

That all the government can give us is an announcement of an announcement of a possible opening of the border and that it is taking so long to allow a travel bubble with Australia is control freakery, incompetence, or both.


Petition to open Trans Tasman bubble

18/03/2021

Last week’s announcement of MIQ-free travel with Niue means little to most people when what many want is to be able to travel freely to and from Australia:

The National Party has launched a petition calling on the Government to get a move on with the trans-Tasman travel bubble, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“There’s no good reason why we can’t have quarantine-free travel with Australia right now. Australia did it for New Zealanders last October, but our Government won’t return the favour.

“Australia has proven it can be done safely, but after nine months and 12 rounds of talks our Government still hasn’t moved.”

People arriving from Australia would be required to show evidence of a negative pre-departure test within 72 hours of travel, but not have to go into isolation on arrival in New Zealand, Ms Collins says.

“Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he’s keen for Australians to come to New Zealand and support our tourism sector, so what are we waiting for?

“Our tourism industry is on its knees, a bubble would be the lifeline they need.

“Managed isolation is overrun with long delays because 40 per cent of places are being taken up by Kiwis returning from Australia where there is little, if any, risk of Covid-19.

“A bubble will free up space, meaning more room for Kiwis abroad trying to get home and our critical workers.

“New Zealanders deserve a travel bubble with Australia and the benefits it brings. There’s no reason for the Government to continue to delay.

“Like New Zealand, Australia has done a great job at eliminating Covid-19.

“It’s time the Government takes the next step and opens up the trans-Tasman bubble.”

If the government could explain why it won’t follow Australia’s example and what is required before it does, we might be more patient.

But there has been no clear explanation and no attempt to explain the delay or outline a plan to let us freely cross to and from Australia.

The longer this goes on the more it looks like excessive caution is turning into incompetence.

You can sign the petition here.


Travelling Under the Social Influence

28/01/2021

Friends waited for more than half an hour for that classic photo overlooking Lake Wanaka from Roys Peak which features near the start of this video.


5 Waitaki wonders

02/01/2021

Tourism Waitaki highlights five of the District’s wonders:

Air NZ recently took to our crystal clear skies to find the 8th wonder of the world within Aotearoa.

The Moeraki Boulders got a shout out so we thought we’d divulge a little more information on the many wonders of the Waitaki, just as Antipater of Sidon did in the 2nd century B.C. creating the first wonders of the world list as a guide for tourists in the ancient world.

While only one of the original wonders of the world still exists, these five destinations on our list have all withstood the test of time.

They’re all part of the Vanished World trail within the aspiring Waitaki Whitestone Geoparkand are perfect spots to visit this summer:

1. The Moeraki Boulders

Alien eggs, giant gobstoppers, the Stonehenge of New Zealand—however you refer to the spherical boulders they’re a mysterious must-see!

According to Maori legend, the Arai-te-uru canoe, one of the earliest to reach the South Island crashed on the golden shores of Shag Point, casting the food baskets into the sea, and they washed ashore along a stretch of Koekohe beach where they still exist today, as the Moeraki boulders.

Formed around 60 million years ago, each boulder started life as a pebble or fossil on an ancient sea floor. Over time, the boulders grew into spherical wonders by mud accretion and calcification.

Some of these boulders weigh several tonnes and the most impressive are over two metres wide so don’t even think about bringing one of these onto your Air NZ flights. 

2. Valley of the Whales

With steep limestone walls either side of you, standing in the Valley of the Whales you can almost imagine you’re at the bottom of the world. All along the Awamoko stream that weaves through the lush country land here, the bones and remains of ancient marine creatures, including sea urchins, dolphins, and rare whales can be found.

You’re likely to see more than you expected at this underrated site.

3. Elephant Rocks

You won’t see any actual Elephants roaming the plains south of Duntroon. Nor, are there fossilised remains of the delightful pachyderm. You’ll have to use your imagination!

The large mass of weathered limestone scattered across the grassy fields look like strange creatures made of stone.

There is some debate about which ones resemble the humble elephant…

4. Anatini

Millions of years ago, Anatini was at the bottom of the sea, and now the curious limestone outcrops and caves that remain make the perfect locale for a picnic, 400 metres above sea level.

The name Anatini stems from Maori meaning many caves, and yes there is a lot to explore throughout the sheltered valley.

Hide and seek could last a long time here. Fossils can be spotted in the limestone, including the main drawcard, the partially exposed remains of a baleen whale, which has been placed under plexiglass to ensure its protection.

5. Paritea Clay Cliffs

The striking landforms of the Paritea Clay Cliffs were originally formed as gravels, sands and silt in fresh water lakes and rivers.

The sediments, which were deposited around 20 million years ago, were over time buried and compressed, then uplifted and eroded.

Standing in the heart of the canyon surrounded by sharp pinnacles and steep ravines you’ll feel a flourish within your souls, awe-struck, and possibly feel quite small.

If you want to see photos of these sites, click on the links.


Bubble babble

14/12/2020

When a joint media release from two Prime Ministers is headlined next steps towards quarantine-free travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand you’d expect it to be about progress. Instead we get this:

. . . Both Prime Ministers and their Cabinets have instructed officials to continue working together to put in place all measures required to safely recommence two-way quarantine-free travel in the first quarter of 2021. . . 

This bubble babble is sadly typical of the PM and her government who so often mistake media releases for action.

It means no more than a continuation of what’s been happening and progress towards opening the borders is far too slow:

The Cook Islands bubble is taking far too long to set up, there is no reason why it shouldn’t already be in place, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Today’s announcement of ‘next steps’ in travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand is an utterly meaningless statement that does no more than repeat that officials are still working on the issue.

“The Prime Minister must explain the delay when a month ago she said there was ‘progress’ and that it would only take ‘a couple of weeks’ before a bubble would be up and running once both sides were happy. . .

“New Zealand officials have been and returned from the Cook Islands, although even that trip was delayed and far later than it should have been.

“The Cooks are heavily dependent on tourism, from New Zealand in particular. Pre-Covid, tourism made up 85 per cent of GDP. Getting the bubble up and running should be a high priority as it will help save jobs and livelihoods in our Pacific neighbour.

“New Zealanders and the Cook Islands need answers from the Government as to why it’s taking so long. A tepid statement that officials are working towards quarter one next year is meaningless given statements in the past.

“‘Quarter one’ could easily mean late March, which even assuming nothing goes wrong, is months away. In the meantime we’re going to see businesses fall under and both Kiwis and Cook Islanders lose their jobs. The Government needs to get on with the job immediately.

“The Government should release a copy of the ‘arrangement to facilitate quarantine-free between the Cook Islands and New Zealand’ so that all parties know what the requirements are.”

The Cooks are Covid-free and there is no community transmission in New Zealand. Why the glacial pace for opening the borders?

The bubble babble about opening the border to travellers from Australia is even worse. Steven Joyce dissects them:

. . . The Prime Minister’s reasons for further delay, as reported in the Herald yesterday, are ridiculously weak. There were basically three of them. Let’s take them in turn.

The PM is reportedly concerned that Australia could have a looser definition of a Covid flare-up than New Zealand. It seems like there is an easy solution to this. New Zealand retains sovereign control over its borders and the Government could reinstate a quarantine requirement at any time. Having a bubble doesn’t mean always agreeing with Australia’s definition of risk.

The second problem is apparently that having fewer Australians in quarantine facilities would allow more people from other countries at greater risk to come into our quarantine facilities. This would increase the numbers of people in quarantine that could have Covid.

Let’s think about that for a second. Are we really keeping people arriving from Australia in isolation, even though it’s not necessary, in order to reduce the number of people from other countries in quarantine who could have Covid? Seriously?

A lot of those people are New Zealanders who are being forced to queue for MIQ places in order to get back to family, friends and/or work.

An alternative view is that freeing up nearly half of the quarantine facilities currently taken up by travellers from Australia would allow faster processing of critical workers and Kiwis from elsewhere who are currently queuing on the other side of the border. Which would surely be a good thing.

Our biggest risk is people coming in from countries other than Australia who are in MIQ. Putting people from Australia, many of whom would be Kiwis, in MIQ increases the risk they will contract the disease from people in the same hotel.

The third problem identified is what happens to Kiwis already in Australia if we have to close the bubble again. Well, I’m thinking they would then have to use quarantine to come back. Which seems a no-brainer. And if this is an argument for not opening a bubble we will never open one.

That’s pretty much it. The Prime Minister is suggesting that we need to postpone our end of a transtasman bubble till at least February to deal with these supposedly intractable issues, which a competent set of people could solve in roughly five minutes. . . 

Requiring MIQ for Trans-Tasman travellers is splitting families and friends, keeping people from visiting the dying and attending funerals, adding costs and imposing restrictions on businesses. It’s also withholding a lifeline from the beleaguered tourism industry.

Restricting freedom of movement is one of the most serious restraints a government can impose on its people.

Australia has opened its border to travellers from here. The reasons the PM has given for not reciprocating are spurious and the government should address any real issues and open the border from Australia before it goes on holiday.

 


NZ’s quirkiest places – Oamaru, Moeraki, Dunedin

12/12/2020

We only want the wealthy?

19/11/2020

Imagine the uproar if a National or Act minister suggested New Zealand should be the preserve of only wealthy tourists.

. . . Nash said too often ratepayers and taxpayers have picked up the bill of the impact of tourism on infrastructure and the environment.

He said the full cost of tourism needs to be priced into the visitor experience.

“New Zealanders should not be subsidising international visitors to the extent that we have done in the recent past,” he said.

“I have asked officials for innovative solutions to minimise the costs to New Zealanders of tourism. This includes ensuring visitors pay for the privilege of participating in the New Zealand experience.” . . 

Isn’t that what the border tax and GST do?

“We must attract high value and high spending visitors who buy into our own vision of sustainability. We must therefore deliver high quality visitor experiences and exceed our visitors expectations,” he said.

Nash said some freedom campers have abused New Zealanders’ renowned hospitality.

“I firmly believe that the low-spending but high-cost tourist is not the future of our tourism industry.”

He is right about the problem. Some people have abused our hospitality but how would he keep the unwanted ones out?

Drafting out the low spenders as they come in won’t work. It might be possible to find out how much they’ve spent on pre-paid bookings but not how much more they’ll spend while they’re here.

Could he be planning to vet what tourists have spent before they leave the country and charge those who haven’t spent enough? No.

One of the Minister’s plans is to ban vans that aren’t self-contained :

“We get all these vans driving round at the moment that are not self-contained, so if the driver or the passenger wants to go to the toilet – we all know examples of this – they pull over to the side of the road and they shit in our waterways.

People in cars and on bikes can be caught short too even though it’s rare to travel more than an hour or two between public loos. But it’s not those travelling from A to B who have caused most of the problems, it’s the ones who stop and camp where there are no facilities.

“So what I am saying for example is a first cut, these vans that are hired out … we will look at regulations to stop this, you will not be able to hire a van that is not self-contained. . . 

This won’t stop people travelling in cars and pitching tents where they will. Nor will it stop people buying cheap vans to camp in and there will be plenty of them if rental companies are banned from hiring them out.

“What I’m saying is, all our marketing effort will go into high net worth individuals who are looking for a piece of paradise at the moment as they sit in lockdown in New York or London.”

Does he think lower net worth people won’t be exposed to the advertising and be tempted to come too?

There’s no doubt that the steep increase in tourism has had some very unpleasant consequences and some of that was due to freedom campers who didn’t dispose of their rubbish and waste properly.

Some councils tried to mitigate that by providing freedom camping sites but not all those travelling in vehicles that weren’t self-contained used them and camping ground owners were justified in objecting to their rates subsidising their competitors in this way.

The Covid-19 induced collapse in overseas tourism has provided time to work out solutions to the problems caused by freedom campers and the Minister is unlikely to find opposition to his desire to solve them.

But an only-the-wealthy-are-welcome campaign should not be part of the plan.


MIQ needs flexibility

06/11/2020

A lack of capacity in managed isolation is keeping a Sydney-based family from visiting their  terminally ill father.

A New Zealand couple based in Sydney say their newborn baby will not meet his dying grandfather if they cannot find space in a managed isolation facility.

This comes as the Government announced its Managed Isolation Allocation System was fully booked until December 20.

Under new rules, people travelling into New Zealand needed a voucher for a managed isolation facility before boarding a flight to New Zealand. . . 

A friend has a place and will be returning home in a couple of weeks. He doesn’t know where he will have to isolate and is willing to pay more for a higher standard of hotel but that isn’t a choice.

These are just two examples of a system that isn’t as flexible as it needs to be.

The country has paid a very high economic cost to eliminate community transmission of Covid-19. We cannot risk an incursion at the border which means everyone coming in must isolate.

But the risk isn’t the same for everyone.

People returning from countries where Covid-19 is rife pose a much higher risk than those coming from countries which have the disease under control.

The ones from high risk countries should have to stay in managed isolation facilities.

People from low risk countries could be given the option of self-isolating, providing electronic monitoring was feasible and consequences for breaching isolation were high enough to ensure they stayed put.

Everyone coming in is charged for the costs of MIQ which is fair but some, people, like my friend, are willing and able to pay more for a higher standard of accommodation. Others wont be able to afford the $3,100 for the fortnight’s enforced stay and there ought to be a less expensive, but still safe, option for them.

The story of the Sydney-based family with the dying relative won’t be an isolated case and the system must be able to cater for them.

The government has been exhorting us all to be kind.

It must follow its own exhortations and ensure that MIQ has the flexibility to allow compassionate entry for those who need it and a variety of prices for those who can’t afford to pay the standard fee as well as those who would choose to pay more.

 


Waitaki Whitestone Geopark

23/10/2019

Waitaki Whitestone Geopark is seeking to be Australasia’s first Geopark.

This gives a glimpse of some of the attractions:

 


No-one wins when bystanders hurt by strikes

13/12/2018

The threatened strike by Air New Zealand workers has been averted.

Thank goodness.

Had it gone ahead, the strike for three days from next Friday would have disrupted flights for tens of thousands of travellers and a lot of freight.

The threat was enough to cause considerable angst to a lot of people and did the workers’ cause no good.

Any sympathy people might have had for their claims was more than outweighed by the stress and distress over the fears that planned travel for weddings, graduations, reunions, homecomings, work and Christmas was going to be impossible.

Unions do themselves and their workers no favours with these sorts of threats which take those of us old enough to remember back to the bad old days when strikes routinely upset travel plans.

The government must accept part of the blame too, as Barry Soper writes:

If politics is about perception, the perception is that the country’s going to hell in a trade union hand basket.

Parliament’s bear pit was on fire yesterday with the booming Gerry Brownlee lambasting the Government for returning New Zealand to cloth cap control by the unions with Air New Zealand engineers threatening to down tools for three days from December 21 (the strike threat was removed late last night).

National riled the Government saying there are now more strikes than there have been since Jacinda Ardern was at primary school. . .

It’s true when Ardern was at primary school 30 years ago the trade union movement was all powerful and battling a government that made the recent changes to workplace law look like a Sunday school picnic.. . 

Now the muscle is again being flexed and if Labour’s feeling flustered, it’s got itself to blame.

Changes to the way the party selected its leader was taken away from its MPs six years ago and handed over to the party’s membership and its trade union affiliates who have 20 per cent of the vote, with caucus getting 40 and the rest going to paid-up card carriers. . .

Unions don’t only hold the voting power, they are major donors to Labour and they want their reward for that. But they put the government, and any sympathy the public might have for their members, at risk when bystanders are hurt by strikes.

 


$2.63 and rising

08/10/2018

Is this the most expensive petrol in the country?

Regular petrol in Wanaka yesterday cost $2.639, premium was more than $3 and diesel was $1.999.

The lower value of the New Zealand dollar is contributing to the rising price, but so too is the government’s new fuel tax.

It’s supposed to be levied only in Auckland but it’s appears to be spreading throughout the country.

And whether or not the tax is spreading north and south of Auckland, the pain of higher fuel prices is being felt nationwide.

All goods and services have a transport component, when the price of fuel increases, it put pressures on every single thing that is transported.

And the virtue signalling about the environment is cold comfort for those of us who will rarely if ever use Auckland’s public transport and have no public transport available locally.

This will be a tax too far for many people.

A government that talks about caring about child poverty needs to act to reduce the costs their parents can’t avoid.

 


Who gets money from All Blacks’ tours?

04/10/2018

All Blacks’ fans will be paying a high price for World Cup tickets.

Ticket prices for the All Blacks’ pool matches range between $536 for category A down to $134 for category D for the pool opener against South Africa, as well as the matches against Namibia and Italy. The contest against the repechage winner is slightly discounted at between $402 and $93.

Category A tickets comprise the bulk of the main stands running pitchside, while category D is essentially immediately behind the in-goal area.

The quarterfinals are priced the same as the All Blacks’ pool match against South Africa at between $536 and $134, while the semifinals will require you to fork out $938 for a category A tickets and the final $1340. . .

That final price tag is still less than we were quoted for tickets to the All Blacks vs Pumas in Argentina last year.

The first quote came back at several thousands dollars including accommodation in a five-star hotel.

We didn’t need five-star accommodation. The next price for a more modest hotel was still eye-watering.

I suggested another hotel where someone in our group already had a booking so we knew the price. When we subtracted the hotel from the quote that came back we would still have been paying around $1500 for a ticket to the game.

I gave up on trying to get tickets from New Zealand and asked an Argentinean friend to try for us.

She got us good seats for less than $300 – around five times less than the lowest price we were offered through All Black tours in New Zealand.

So who gets the difference between what the tickets cost and what fans are charged after costs and a reasonable profit are taken off?

 


Travellers’ time saved

26/08/2018

Departure cards for international travellers are being scrapped:

Travellers currently fill out a total of 6.5 million departure cards each year.

But Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri said the cards are no longer needed to account for all people crossing the New Zealand border.

She said they now have smarter systems which can identify information and travel movements electronically.

“Information captured by the departure cards is now mainly used for statistical purposes,” Ms Whaitiri said.

“Stats NZ has developed an alternative way to produce migration and tourism statistics, based on actual movements rather than passengers’ stated intentions on the departure cards.” . . 

The requirement to fill out cards will be end in November.

The Government says it will save more than 100,000 hours of time and allow a faster and smoother process.

Each time I’ve passed through the electronic passport control I’ve wondered why there is still a requirement to fill in a departure card.

There isn’t any longer which will save travellers’ time and ought to also save the time and money that has been spent on processing them.


Wool best to beat perma-stink

24/07/2018

Scientists have proved what wool fans know – merino wool is the best fabric to beat the perma-stink:

When Rachel McQueen’s husband was training for a marathon, she noticed the smell emanating from his running clothes was much stronger and lingered longer in his polyester tops than if he had run in a merino wool top.

“I was repulsed,” said the textile scientist. Even freshly laundered, her husband’s running tops still stunk. “The smell was as strong as if they had just been worn and I realized you can get perma-stink.”

McQueen, who has made it her mission to find the causes of perma-stink, conducted a study in which she compared the relationship between and different fabrics. She had male volunteers wear test T-shirts, which had swatches of polyester, cotton and stitched to the underarm regions. They wore the shirts for two consecutive days and then the swatches were removed for testing. Smell tests using sensors were conducted on each after one day, seven days and 28 days of storage.

“Polyester was by the far the most odorous,” she said. “Wool was the least smelly, and cotton was low to medium.”

The chemical odour-binding sites within fibres are key in determining the stink level, so McQueen focused her attention on the chemical makeup of fibres and how it affects odour retention.

She found that wool and cotton are hydrophilic and absorb more water than polyester.

“Wool is a fibre with an amorphous structure,” explained McQueen. “It has open spaces and is more porous than a synthetic fibre, so it can absorb a lot of sweat.”

That means that if odour molecules are trapped within wool or cotton, we can’t smell them as readily as we can with polyester, which has fewer chemical odour-binding sites.

To keep perma-stink at bay while being active, McQueen suggests the following:

Choose fabrics that have higher cotton or wool content.

“People are generally attuned to their own body odour. If you’re concerned, go with natural fibres,” said McQueen.

Wool went out of fashion, but the development of machine washable merino brought it back and its popularity has been enhanced by its environmental credentials.

Concerns over tiny particles of plastic from synthetic clothing getting to the ocean in washing water is turning the tide back to natural fabrics.

It’s a rare day when I don’t wear at least one layer of merino, it’s my preferred choice for exercising and I always wear it when travelling.

It’s warm when it’s cold, cool when it’s hot and, as science has proved, it’s the best to beat the perma-stink.


#getnzonthemap

07/05/2018

100%PureNZ is running a campaign to #getnzonthemap.

We found a map in Asunción, Paraguay last year and did out best to put New Zealand back where it belongs:


Careless campers country-wide problem

26/01/2018

Queenstown Lakes is banning freedom campers from two areas after continuing problems with rubbish and human waste left behind.

Announcing the measures yesterday, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said his council would take a harder line against illegal freedom camping in areas such as Wanaka’s lakefront.

The measures, which will be put into place as soon as practicable, were a response to significant growth in freedom camping in the district this summer, Mr Boult said.

Enforcement alone was not enough, and the council had resolved to “take a harder stand”.

“These pressure points are seeing overcrowding, risks to public health due to human waste, and potential damage to our environment with people bathing and washing dishes or clothes in the lakes or rivers.”

Parts of the district were also being used like a “giant toilet”. . .

The council would also lobby the Government to put much more funding into building public toilet facilities, and providing more remote freedom camping sites throughout the district.

Too few public facilities is a major contributor to the problem and small councils with lots of tourists don’t have the rating base to fund loos in all the places where they’re needed.

The previous government introduced a fund councils could apply to for tourist infrastructure, much more is needed.

He would also be talking to ministers about reviewing the low hurdle required for meeting “self-contained” criteria for toilets in vehicles. . .

The only acceptable criteria for a ‘self-contained” toilet is those built-in ones in camper vans.

Councils can fine people camping where they shouldn’t be, but only about 20% of fines issued to freedom campers in the Waitaki District have been paid.

Fines totalling $17,000 were issued to freedom campers across the district. Of the infringement notices issued, each for $200, 15 ($3000) had been paid while 58 ($11,600) were outstanding.

The remaining 12, worth $2400, had been withdrawn…

The solution to this would be to make vehicle owners responsible for any fines. That way rental companies would have to pay and then get the money from the people hiring from them which is, I think, what happens with parking fines.

Another contributor to problems caused by careless campers is different rules from different councils in different areas.

Careless campers are a country-wide problem that needs a country-wide solution.

That will include more public facilities, clearer rules, and better education on what is and isn’t acceptable.

Defecation in public is the norm in some countries, visitors must be left with no doubt that they can’t pooh in public places here.


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