Haydn Marriner is a Rotorua tourism operator and political junkie.
It's election time and week after week in politics, just when you think things can’t possibly get crazier, the notch gets turned up a level and suddenly I am having to delete this column and start all over.
If you are right-leaning, you may want to stop reading now.
National is going to lose this election. Even the most politically ignorant person can see that. Don’t let anyone tell you that “polls are wrong”. In New Zealand, they are for the most part correct and usually, adjustments are within the margins of error.
The margin of error isn’t 10-25 per cent which is the current gulf between Labour and National. So what you're seeing now is National running a campaign to reduce the fallout.
This was why they changed leader - in the hope that Todd Muller wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. But the leadership coup was ugly, with the margin of victory for Team Muller being reported as only two votes, which in the National Caucus means that they are massively split and they are still mopping the blood up off the floor.
Fractured parties don’t make fractured governments - that's a fact. Like animals on the savannah, you can smell the rotting meat a mile downwind and only the truly desperate would even think about partaking of that carcass, bad smells equal bad meat.
So what's National going to do? They have to attack the government, they are in opposition, it's part of what happens. Short of presenting solutions in the form of policy (which they are light on) and an economic plan (which they haven’t), it's pretty obvious they’re big move is to stimulate dissatisfaction with the way the current government has handled the Covid-19 crisis.
It's basically all they talk about. It's a strategy that sucks, but they are backing that to be how they can help keep some of their backbenchers employed. What's horrible about this strategy, is that in order to do it, they, as paid elected officials are pumping out fear, angst, hysteria, lies (Michael Woodhouse) and are undermining confidence, both personal and business, all for their own selfish reasons.
They clearly still have a hangover from drinking too much self-importance when they are acting like what's good for National is good for the electorate.
There are other ways to go about winning, but you don’t earn the label “nasty nats” because you're all sugar and sunlight. It was very obvious that local MP Todd McClay is very clearly a National Party first, Rotorua second type of man.
He outed Rotorua as one of the destinations now hosting returning Kiwis. In doing this he put up a social media post, which created fear in our community and has resulted in a negative public image of Rotorua to wider New Zealand.
This negativity has gone so far as to now be affecting public perception of safety in Rotorua from Covid-19 and to turn away potential domestic visitors, with media articles popping up all over the place to this effect.
As an elected official of Rotorua, you don’t get to do that. You don’t get to use Rotorua for political gain when that gain comes at the cost of our city, our tourism industry and employment for our people.
Rotorua has had to fight, tooth and nail for every visitor that arrives and competition is fierce. Every one of our neighbours would love to knock us off our perch and are as we speak are actively working to do so.
It takes our tourism professionals, owners and operators, time, effort and skill to ensure that we are top of mind for potential holidaymakers. It's not a "spray and walk away" type of industry. In a tight domestic tourism market, the last thing our tourism industry needs is its local MP throwing shade on our destination. Shade which goes viral to the nation and makes us look anything except how awesome we actually are.
So what actually happened? Quite simply our (empty) Rotorua hotels put their hands up to host returning Kiwis for their term in isolation. This would enable them to restore staff to work and remain open till Covid-19 turns around and more normal service can resume.
Auckland and all its hotels are full. Hosting returning Kiwis has given those Auckland hotels a lifeline, but now they can’t cope. So Rotorua became an option. Us, Rotorua, the legendary city of tourism gets the chance to help our team of five million and welcome home returning Kiwis.
Who could possibly be better suited than us to do this job? We've been at this since ages ago and we are the best at it, so why all the hu-ha, when you could just let us get on with it and do what we do?
Politics is a tough game and it's even harder to be in opposition and not come across as relentlessly negative. Up until now, Todd McClay has done really well at this. However Todd is elected to be a champion for our city, our electorate and instead of having our back during the hardest possible time in the last decade, he's dealt us a solid shot to the guts and that's simply not on.
Tourism employs 1 in 5 people in Rotorua, no single person, no political party has the right to risk our peoples' jobs and their families futures to score cheap political points.
Let's hope this is an isolated one-off because negative publicity like this Rotorua doesn’t need or deserve. And it insults our long history of manaakitanga to say that we, Rotorua, don't want to play our part in helping make our Kiwis' return home a little special, in this new Covid-world.
Rotorua has never been afraid to put its hand up for the big stuff, never shied away from the big stage and I have every confidence our people will focus on delivering their very best, after all, delivering day in day out is what Rotorua is good at.