Dear Minister, where the hell have you been?


Dear Kelvin,

I know you’re busy and all, but I just had one quick question for you.

Where, exactly, have you been?

Or, perhaps, more to the point, as Minister of Tourism, what – aside from tasking Tourism New Zealand to come up with a domestic marketing campaign – have you been doing to support NZ’s tourism industry?

Here’s the thing.

Please forgive me for being blunt – it’s been a tough couple of months and, like many, I’m running low on sleep and patience – but you seem to have been dumbfoundingly quiet.

Some weeks ago you were asked about the tourism industry, the worst affected of any in our fine country, and plans to support it.

Your answer was, basically, “there are a lot of industries struggling at the moment”.

Yes, Kelvin, there are.

But, good sir, you are the TOURISM MINISTER.

So, to my mind – and I appreciate I’m not as smart as you are, nor a government minister being paid nigh on $300k a year before that pesky pay cut you had to take – you kind of have a responsibility to put us first, no?

Then there was your floundering interview with Paul Henry, where he refused to accept the pre-approved party lines.

And without them, you said nothing.

We had a Queenstown Chamber of Commerce Zoom meeting with you.

“Wait for the Budget”, you said, like it would be the holy grail.

In your defence, that meeting was apparently for you to learn about our struggles – not just Queenstown, but Wanaka and Central Otago, too.

Forgive me, Kelvin, for appearing rude, but shouldn’t you, as Tourism Minster, already know them?

Then comes that much anticipated Budget. A total of $400 million for tourism.

But other than that TNZ marketing campaign, what’s it for, Kelvin?

Again, I do apologise, but it just seems, well, a bit shit really that you, given your portfolio, can’t seem to answer that question.

The inside word is there’ll be priority for “historic” or “iconic” businesses.

Who decides that, Kelvin?

And how does anyone in Wellington determine who’s more important or deserving in Queenstown – or anywhere, really – than someone else?

There was a meeting of the epidemic response committee last week where two of our most respected businesspeople – Louisa Patterson and Mark Quickfall – along with a colleague from the North Island had to plead – PLEAD – for less than 5 per cent ($22m) of the government’s aviation rescue package, announced about eight weeks ago, to go to the general aviation tourism industry, one which puts more than $140m into the economy every year.

I asked if you were present.

Apparently you sent your apologies five minutes prior because you couldn’t make it.

I really don’t want to be mean, I’m sure you’re a wonderful man doing the best you can in these trying times.

But, Kelvin, in three years you’ve visited Queenstown thrice.

Out of interest, have you called our mayor, Jim Boult, lately to see how things are here?

Yeah. Didn’t think so.

Mind you, I understand your boss hasn’t either.

That aside, three visits in three years (though that’s two more than your fine leader) is, well, underwhelming considering what the mighty Wakatipu has done for the portfolio you have.

It all feels like a slap in the face for an industry that contributes about $41 billion – domestic and international spend combined – a year to our economy.

Tourists who come to Queenstown spend about $2.3b a year.

Just Queenstown.

But you’ve launched a domestic marketing campaign.

Yay, you.

Kelvin, to my initial point, what the actual are you doing?

Where’s the leadership and support from you?

It’s all very well trotting out your “reimagining tourism”, whatever that means, but we’re still bloody waiting for you to DO SOMETHING.

This, Kelvin, is your job.

There are thousands of people in our community who were doing theirs, extremely well, until two months ago.

Now they have no income and no idea when, or from where, they’ll get their next pay cheque.

Some of them will lose their homes, Kelvin.

And, with the utmost of respect, sir, you look like you’re asleep at the wheel of the tourism industry.