Minister digs heels in after calling tourism sector 'cocky'

Author
The Country,
Publish Date
Tue, 23 Mar 2021, 2:14PM
Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Minister digs heels in after calling tourism sector 'cocky'

Author
The Country,
Publish Date
Tue, 23 Mar 2021, 2:14PM

Cabinet minister and veteran Labour MP Damien O'Connor is digging in his heels and refusing to apologise to the tourism sector after calling the sector "cocky".

Speaking to media this morning, he essentially brushed off criticism from those in the sector.

Instead, he said that his use of "cocky" was a "term of endearment" often used in the agricultural sector.

He did, however, concede that it might not have been the right word to use – "Maybe it's not the perfect word".

But when pressed a number of times, he refused to apologise to those hard-hit tourism operators offended by his remarks.

Last week, he said that Covid-19 had taught the tourism sector "not to be so cocky".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the word "cocky" is not one she would have used in this situation. Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said the same thing.

"That's certainly not how I would have put it," he told media this morning.

He said the comments were unfair and he has talked to O'Connor about them. "He has apologised to me".

But O'Connor said he didn't apologise for the comments, he said sorry for "putting more pressure on him [Nash]".

Asked explicitly if he would apologise to the sector, he said: "I'll work through that".

"Cocky is a term of endearment used across the agricultural sector. Perhaps it's not the right word I should have used."

He said the sentiment he was trying to get across was that everyone in every sector has to be prepared for a downturn – "If you're running a tourism business, you need to have some back-up".

National leader Judith Collins, who called O'Connor's "cocky" comments "appalling", was equally flabbergasted by him this morning saying this was a "term of endearment".

"Well, I can think of other terms of endearment that the tourist industry might wish to apply to Damien O'Connor."

This is not the first time O'Connor has been stung for inappropriate comments.

Last month, he was in hot water after he said Australia should "follow us and show some respect" to China.

He was weighing in on the ongoing rift between the two countries.

O'Connor copped flak from senior members of the Australian Government for his remarks.

Collins said O'Connor needs to be "reined in" by Ardern.

text by Jason Walls, NZ Herald