Just how determined are we to shoot the golden goose? There are, in fact, two geese in this country as regards to foreign income. Or more specifically, the way we make a living.
One is dairy, one is tourism.
Dairy, despite Fonterra's ongoing efforts to be hopeless, seems on a more solid footing with increased payouts promised, a new board and a new CEO at least making the right noises.
It is worth, depending on how and when you count it, about $13 or $14 billion to us.
Tourism is about the same. Except with tourism, we appear to be losing our goodwill, our previous penchant for decent hospitality and an overarching desire to see it grow and prosper.
Just this week, we have the following:
One, a protest moaning about a pontoon on the harbour in Auckland so we can park big ships. Two, a fee for super-yachts for the America's Cup. And three, a tourist levy that costs more to bring in that it actually brings in.
Why are we doing this to ourselves? The world is a very big place, and we have a special part in it. And yes we are good, yes people like us and want to come. But that participation comes with a caveat, don't piss them off.
Why? Because they don’t have to come. The trick to good tourism is to show them a good time, not rip them off, and not leave them with a bad taste in their mouths. And this is clearly the path we are going down.
A tourist is a person to be encouraged not gouged, the world is full of gouging. Any business will tell you the trick to a good customer base is keep them coming back, have them pass on the good news via word of mouth.
All these examples earn us a fortune. Cruising is the growth story in tourism of the past decade, it's worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Even Phil Goff, the old left-leaning activist upon seeing the reality once he became Auckland Mayor changed his mind, why? Because tourism pays the bills, and we are good at it.
The America's Cup is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Can a super-yacht afford fees? Of course it can, that’s not the point. They’ll spend till your eyes water but let them spend when they're happy and thinking we are worth coming back to. Let them spend fixing and overhauling their boats.
And as for the tax, do we need to upgrade infrastructure in bits of the country with a low rating base? Yes we do.
But that’s not the tourists' problem, it's ours, as hosts, as marketers of a product. You don’t pay for your room at the Ritz Carlton, then a levy for the bog upgrades.
There is a price to hosting guests, the price is a national one, and if things need improvements that’s the price of tourism.
The fact MBIE can see $50 million go down the drain in spending the moment a tax goes on tells you the value of the tax. It's simply not worth it.
The tourism prize in many respects is based on luck, where we are, and what we look like. We are blessed, let us see that blessing and embrace it, not wring its neck with greed and nimbyism.