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Thursday, April 3, 2014

This safety thing again

So another couple of tourists got robbed and assaulted - a particularly vicious attack this time.  A dreadful thing. But as I keep underlining it is so rare that it was major news.  Been on all the tv news and current affairs shows.  The chattering classes on talkback radio went on and on about it. 

It must be set against the other news in that area - the fact that crime has been steadily dropping in most centres. Murders are showing a bit of an increase, but the statisticians tell us that it is not a trend, just an aberration this year.  

Sexual assaults are also up - reported sexual assaults, and that's the key. More women are prepared to come forward and complain about low-lifes that commit that sort of crime. Thus reported crime may be up but we don't know about this type of assault overall because there is no data to compare.

The two young women who were attacked in this latest event were hitch-hiking. Normally that's  safe enough if there are two of you, but it just shows that there are exceptions to any rule.

My advice is take a careful look at the driver and passengers and if they look dodgy, give it a miss.

Having said that, I have very occasionally been forced to hitch-hike - usually because there is no public transport available. I once got picked up at about 11pm by a bunch of hard Maori dudes travelling from Hamilton to the casino in Auckland.  They were all drinking beer and looked less than savoury - but, hey, it was late and I needed to get home. They were great. We had a lot of laughs, I even had a beer with them and they dropped me right at my home in a suburb of Auckland. As I said, there are exceptions to every rule. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Adventure Tourism Is Dangerous - That's Why You Do It!

The safety of adventure tourism has recently attracted attention.  The government did a study and report in 2009-10 which has become the basis of tuning up the adventure industry since then. 

But the simple fact is that adventure tourism is, by its very nature, risky.  Those activities - bungy jumping, jet boating, paragliding, tandem parachuting, white water rafting et al - really are dangerous. 

Sure, by careful attention to operational procedures the danger is minimised, but all the professional competence and standards rules can't totally eliminate the risk. 

It's like air travel. Highly regulated operational procedures can't stop something like MH370. S**t happens.

The Tourist Industry Association in NZ takes a lead role in adventure tourism, helping to strengthen safety across this important visitor sector.  The  underlying premise is that the 'adventure' must not be taken out of adventure tourism and that decisions made by government and other organisations need to reflect the reality of operators working in the adventure tourism sector.

To which I'll say amen to that. 

A while back a rafter was drowned in an unfortunate event in Queenstown - which is tragic. 

But the next thing customers were opting out because it was "dangerous".  Well of course it's bloody dangerous - why else would you do it?  Without the danger it's just an expensive and uncomfortable way to get wet, cold and miserable. 

The potential for danger is what gives you the adrenalin rush.

The torism industry is quick to weed out the cowboy operators who are usually under-capitalisded and in shaky financial state - tyhe sort of conditions that lead to safety short cut. 

If you are a visitor here look at the operator with whom you are contemplating an adventure.  If they look professional - if their whole presentation is one of competence -  you can be reasonably sure that they are complying with all the right safety standards.

Membership of the TIA or another industry body is usually a sign that they know what's what and who's who at the zoo. 

So go with them and enjoy the ride. 

For more on New Zealand torurism go to my website A New Zealand Travel Guide

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Christchurch Trams Ready To Roll Again

One of Christchurch top tourist attractions, the Trams, is nearly ready to roll again after being shut down following the disastrous 2011 earthquakes.

The team at the Ferrymead Heritage Park has been busy during the downtime completely restoring some of the old tramcars.  They look stunning in their new livery.

They won't running on the full route of old . . . that will come next year as the city continues to claw its way out of the abyss, but in the meantime you can catch a trip back into another time.

Jeff Harvey of Ashburton’s Harvey Signs and Graphics  is a traditional sign-writer in a real sense, preferring to work with old-time methods utilising gold leaf or non-tarnishing aluminium rather than modern computer-generated graphics. Working on Tram No.11 which arrived from J.G. Brill of Philadelphia in 1903 to inaugurate the Dunedin Corporation electric tramway, Jeff is reproducing the sign-writing close to as it would have been that year.  

He is utilising early twentieth century sign-writing methods using gold leaf. He cannot touch the tram body.  If he does, finger grease will attract the fine specks of airborne gold.  It will not look good when the bodywork is sealed with a clear lacquer.  The completed work looks superb.

So when you hit Christchurch make sure to make time to take a trip back into the public transport of yesteryear and marvel at the craftsmanship of the volunteers that keep these wonderful old machines in perfect working order.

 The find out more about Christchurch's attractions go to

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pahia Gives It Toilets A Makeover

The good folk in Paihia, in New Zealand's Bay of Islands, were so ashamed when a visitor wrote on the walls of the the local toilet block "These are the worst toilets I have ever used"  that they got their shit together, so to speak, and did something about it.

A team of local volunteers ripped into the scummy old toilet block and, taking a leaf out of nearby Kawakawa's book, built a dunny with a difference.

paihia toilet

Different during the day, for sure, but you should see it at night - it's a flashing disco light show.  Like it's Kawakawa cousin, the local loo is now one of the most photographed things in the town.

To learn more about Paihia and Northland, New Zealand, go to or download my free Ebook A New Zealand Travel Guide  at

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The WOW Factor in Wellington and Nelson

It's World of Wearable Art time in Wellington again - this year the shows start on Sept 26 through to October 6.  The awards themselves are on Sept 27. 

Even if you haven't got tickets to the shows - there are still some nights available, including Saturday Oct 5 - it's still worth a trip to the capital city to see the WOW Window competition with 60 stores doing themed displays. 

Then there's the Wow Factor exhibition at Te Papa with a selection of garments from the past 25 years, going right back to that rainy day in Nelson when Dame Suzie Moncrieff kick-started an event that has become a major in the NZ fashion and art calendar. 

If that's not enough WOW for you, grab a flight to Nelson for a visit to the the World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum. 

Rather strange bedfellows - Wearable Art and classic cars, but I guess if the guys don't want to see the wearable art (they should, they definitely should), they can slope off to the cars. 

The exhibits in the wearable art section are stunning. Designers from around the world want to be part of the annual Wearable Art awards.  The show started in Nelson, but these days it's staged in Wellington. The best of the collections are brought back here. The cars are a world class collection of rare and classic cars. Open 10-5 daily.

For more on Wellington's attractions go to 

and for Nelson there's a lot to learn at 

The World of Wearable Art website is at 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Christchurch's Woolston Shopping Mall is Fantastic

It just has to be the new Must Visit in Christchurch - the shopping mall in the old Woolston tannery buildings, better known in more recent years as the Cassels and Sons Brewing Co. 

Alasdair Casels has had a vision for the old tannery for some time.  Prior to the devastating Christchurch earthquakes he had established a craft brewing business there, but could see a great deal more potential in the site. 

The earthquakes fairly much bowled the brewery and put the buildings at risk. 

Undeterred - even by the unimaginable cost - Cassels had a team of workmen strip down 150,000 bricks, clean them and once structural strengthening had been put in place, return them to their original place. 

Then he set about turning the interior into something magical. 

This is what you expect to find in London, or even Melbourne.  But in industrial Woolston?  Magic! 

The brewery is back in business and now there is a gaggle of shops, artisans and craftspeople on site.

If you are visiting the city you simply have to go there.  If for no other reason than to spend a few bob to keep the retailers in business so that further extensions of the development will make commercial sense. 

Already this is a marvellous addition to Christchurch's attractions.  As it develops further it will become, I predict, one of the top three attractions in the city. 

For more on Canterbury';s attraction go to

Friday, July 12, 2013

Skycity Convention Centre A Good Deal For All Concerned

The Government and casino owners Skycity have signed a deal under which the company will build and operate a 3500-seat convention centre in return for being allowed more poker machines and an extension of their casino licence to 2048.

The arrangement has run into a barrage of objections from the hand-wringing classes - "problem gambling will increase"  is their plaintive cry.  They should stop whining.  The loudest noise comes from people whose jobs depend on a steady supply of addicts to "counsel and support". 

Wellington's Dominion-Post - a pathetic imitation of a real newspaper - boomed "If the Government truly believes doctors, dentists and real estate salespeople can be persuaded to hold thier (sic) annual shindigs at the bottom of the world, the new centre should be paid for by those who will profit from it – tourist operators, Auckland ratepayers and taxpayers, in that order."

What, no contribution from the Wellington cafes that will pick the pockets of the doctors, dentists and real estate sales people as they explore the rest of the country before or after their "shindig"? Nor from the ferry operators that will carry them to and from the South Island . . . not to mention the civil servants that will be employed watching over this Auckland den on iniquity. 
Just how stupid can an editorial writer be? Pretty damn stupid judging by the piece they printed on 14 May 2013.  Read the drivel here.  

The tourism strategy behind the convention centre is simple:  Build it and they will come.  And then they will spend more time enjoying the rest of the country's tourist attractions. Businesses from North Cape to Bluff will be getting their share of the spoils as 33,000 high-wealth conventioneers annually spread the wallet love around. 

And as for the proposition that the increase in poker machines and gaming tables will result in an increase in problem gambling - what statistical bosh. There are already 1600-odd poker machines in the place.  Anyone who is at risk of addiction already has ample opportunity to fall into evil ways.  

It's not like there are queues of people waiting for a vacant machine. 

On the other hand if you have a couple of thousand convention attendees in the house I can well see why the casino might want more machines and tables to relieve them of some of their cash. Where's the harm? The average conventioneer can afford it and is unlikely to become addicted. 

As for the license extension, given that the company has a mega-million dollar investment in the casino, hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, a theatre and the convention centre is there any serious suggestion that the casino license would not be renewed in the normal course of events? Of course not. 

All this deal does is make a virtue of the inevitable, thus giving the company's shareholders some certainty in return for their huge investment in tourism infrastructure
And, no, I am not a fan of casinos. Haven't been there in years. 

But I do like the tourist attractions they offer -  Skytower, Skywalk, Skyjump and the Weta Cave.  And they operate a couple of excellent hotels and a raft of good nosh spots.  Find out more about these - and other Auckland - attractions by downloading "A New Zealand Travel Guide" eBook.  Here's the link.