The Government is endlessly inventive in finding new ways to cock up its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Its latest brainwave was to pack busloads of newly arrived travellers from foreign pandemic hotspots off to Rotorua after hotel space ran out in Auckland.
Presumably Rotorua was chosen because there’s plenty of accommodation there. But hang on: the reason there’s lots of accommodation in Rotorua is that it’s a popular holiday destination, and the school holidays are approaching. Didn’t anyone stop to consider the possibility that filling local hotels with people under quarantine might deter families from visiting the city just when we’re being urged to support domestic tourism and Rotorua tourism operators are desperate for business?
I must declare an interest here. I recently booked several nights’ accommodation in Rotorua during the school holidays so we could take our grandsons there. We were planning to do all the touristy things: the Skyline Luge, the Polynesian Pools, a 4WD trip to the top of Mt Tarawera. Suddenly I’m wondering whether it’s wise, given that three Rotorua hotels are full of people who may be carrying a potentially lethal virus, including one confirmed case. Theoretically we should be safe, since the hotels are supposedly are under tight lockdown; but who can have confidence in the quarantine arrangements after the fiasco in Auckland?
It’s no surprise that the local tourism industry is apprehensive, with Rotorua Tourism CEO Andrew Wilson saying he hopes people won’t be deterred from visiting. You have to ask: was Rotorua really the only alternative? After all, Hamilton is much closer to Auckland and doesn’t exactly loom large on school holiday wish-lists. Wouldn’t that have been a better choice?
We decided to stick to our plans because we don’t want to disappoint the grandsons. One of them is fascinated by volcanoes and keen to see where Mt Tarawera had its guts ripped out in 1886. We’ll just have to revert to our own personal Level 2 precautions and hope the quarantine arrangements don’t turn out to be as laughably porous as they were in Auckland.