OPINION: Our holiday is over, their holiday begins

Monday 17 May 2021 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Editorials, Opinion


OPINION: Our holiday is over, their holiday begins

More bikes and cars driving on once deserted roads; it’s back to life, back to reality – the tourists are coming, writes Ruta Mave.

As you read this, I’ll be flying across the vast Pacific Ocean heading home from the New Zealand Kayak Nationals.

Despite threats of thunder, lightning, wind and rain from weather forecasts, we experienced sunny calm conditions unlike tropical destination Rarotonga.

The tourists are coming, the tourists are coming, beat the drums, kill the fatted calf, they are coming, they are our salvation, they are Kiwis. 

They are expecting a picture-perfect brochure holiday, not days on end of torrential rain, fingers crossed. 

As Kiwis do, they will probably bring their own food in polystyrene ‘chilly bins’ and leave them here for us to recycle.

They will be excited to get out of ‘Dodge’ – Auckland – but will they spend? Pre Covid, Kiwis were never the big spenders, like northern hemisphere tourists, but we love them dearly and they are now more than ever our lifeline to the big world.

If we can do it with Kiwis, we can do it with anyone.

Time to wake up people out of our year-long sabbatical. Give credit where credit is due; New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern closed our borders keeping us safe, Prime Minister Mark Brown kept our chins floating above water on minimum wage subsidies.

We may have to pay it back by destroying our ocean floor, or give our children’s children the burden to bear, but we can’t deny the past year has allowed us to breathe, the lagoon to breathe, and the roads to be repaired.

Marine life has returned to the lagoon, turtles by the score, and now with the return of tourists we will once again crowd their habitat and scare them away – or will we? 

Have we learnt that less is more? One lagoon operator said they will take less customers per group to lessen the impact on the ocean life. Will others follow?

Where one boat trip a day was enough, then demand pushed it to two or three, fish got fed not twice, once each per company, but four or six times a day.

Is this a good practice for preserving natural environments? Venice, Italy, which has banned large cruise ships from entering its canals, has seen the return of dolphins and fish to the now clear waters not polluted by the hundreds of petrol polluting boats and water taxis.

How long will it last before the tempting lure of money, money, money throws the baby out with the bath water?

Tourism showed no attempts to control the continued increase in tourist numbers pre-2020, heading well over 150,000 per year, despite the strain on our infrastructure, sewage systems and water ways.

The downturn has led to an upturn in culture and agriculture, planting, and small business growers. Will they remain, will they trade in the stressful life of hospitality for the creativity of living off the land?

People say: “Oh you’ll be happy the borders are open.” Hmmm, will we? Yes, we will, eventually.

We have to brush off our complacency; the Kiwis are coming and they travel at the speed of light.

I spent a lot of time driving the highways at twice the speed we drive in Rarotonga and it was still too slow.

When these drivers come to Raro they bring their need for speed, but that’s not who we are. In fact we have relaxed more into island time, maybe they have too, or we’re in for a wakeup call.

Time to retrain the children crossing roads and locals pulling out of their driveways as there will be traffic, once again.

All those car graveyards around the island with shiny new cars rusting in the paddocks will be released onto our roads. Sitting for over 12 months in the sun and rain, hopefully with the hand brake off or else it might have seized.

More bikes and cars driving on once deserted roads; it’s back to life, back to reality – the tourists are coming.

So much talk about Covid-free and being Covid prepared, but should we tell them about dengue?  

Covid can be avoided by social distancing 2 metres, but dengue is mosquito-carried and they can fly more than two metres.

There is high risk from one mosquito flying around in a room of people social distancing and wearing masks, spreading dengue than the same people catching Covid. Should we be telling them?

Time to brush off the dancing shoes and ei katu, the genial smile and the history spiel – the tourists are coming.

When asked, most tourist operators and workers will say it’s been nice not having any tourists, but we can’t all sing for our suppers, which makes the arrival of tourists necessary.

My phone has been beeping hot with friends enquiring on places to stay and see. Here they come, our holiday is over, their holiday begins.

Welcome to paradise, we are open.