At the upper end of the scale we have the $1200 per night villas. The visitors in that category, obviously, on room-nights alone, are leaving 10 times as much cash on the island but one tenth the amount of material flushed down the toilet.
Then factor in that those $1200 folks aren’t bringing in chilly bins of meat like the folks staying in the $120 plywood boxes (that Tourism Cook Islands allows to be called “villas”).
And did the Cook Islands Pearl Authority really put that big poster on the recently built black fence hoarding not far from the supermarket?
Well done big thinkers, your task is to market rare black pearls from pristine lagoons to those $1200 a night visitors and you put your sign on a billboard so ugly that it wouldn’t have been built in the worst neighbourhood in Auckland. That’s how you push high-class jewellery?
What about the two ugly boxes that have popped up near to Palace Burgers?
Just wonderful, right where the cruise ships disgorge day-visitors with pockets full of cash, and what’s the first impression of Polynesia?
Could the Ports Authority have done any more damage to our image, not only for day trippers but for arriving tourists as they drive by?
The harbour, pre-boxes, was actually somewhat charming. Well, there’s room for half a dozen more boxes, so what are we waiting for?
We must be just weeks away from the BCI issuing the vehicle plate number 12000 but there has not been so much as a hint from the Tourist Authority that we, like some other islands, would decide when enough is enough and prevent any vehicle coming on island until another vehicle leaves.
No, the import tax and petrol tax are just too attractive, the sellers of petrol and sellers of vehicles have too big a vested interest, and who cares if those $1200-a-night tourists have to wait a couple of minutes to cross the road to the better pearl shops?
The $120 tourists won’t mind, and besides, they’re more interested in the $10 ‘loose pearl’ signs at the bargain outlets.
And then there’s the Airbnb-driven disappearance of long-term rental housing on Rarotonga.
Locals, who have otherwise survived the non-liveable minimum wage, the political favouritism that keeps young people from getting a foothold where the old and power-hungry won’t give an inch, the imported food prices and the telecommunications monopoly, may now find that the last straw comes when the landlord decides that rent at $200 a week does not compare to $200 per night from the cheap tourists with the chilly bins full of meat.
Folk singer Joni Mitchell perhaps summed it all up decades ago with the words to her song: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone – you pave paradise, put up a parking lot.”
Don’t Pave Paradise
(Name and address supplied)