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The Press – News column May 21

Send Them Packing.

Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Christchurch Airport has come under heavy fire for booting out the overnight squatters, who’ve freeloaded for far too long. The backlash to their “outski” edict has been operatic. The nightly spectacle of the arrivals terminal morphing into a rag-tag gypsy camp has festered out of control, aided and abetted by myriad websites, highlighting what a soft-touch Christchurch is. Existing accommodation providers will understandably cry foul at the airport’s plans to build an on-site backpackers hostel. The airport would be better to establish a Japanese-style Pod hotel, where the transiting customer in need of sleep, is charged by the hour. Having a swarm of late-night arriving flights from Australia is an aggravating factor. But you can book a return shuttle and a hostel bed for under $70. And a little bit of savvy planning would overcome the hazard of an early departing connection, after a late-night arrival. Backpackers are frugal by nature, but a frugal and feckless backpacker is bad news brown. Unlike Auckland Airport, where a handful of cheapskates will park their carcass and sleep rough, it’s been in the hundreds at Harewood, turning our sparkly boutique airport into a dosshouse of smelly snoring sloths. By day break, the toilets are a tip. And have you noticed the rows of airport seats, ripped and tattered by these spongers? They’re the same ilk as the low-rent tourists who schlep around the South Island in a Wicked camper, littering the Lindis and pooing in Pukaki. This is the entitlement society’s special breed of budget traveller, where taking the world for a ride, is life’s elixir.  Their contribution to the tourism industry and our economic well-being is negligible. In fact, it probably costs us. Christchurch Airport should man up, stand firm and put the Great Southern Sleepover to bed.

Toll Gate.

Christchurch faces some searching questions about solving the shortfall in anchor project funding. Do we slug the ratepayer or the taxpayer for more dosh, should the projects be scaled back, or should there be a partial sale of some council assets? Enter the Riccarton-Wigram Community Board, who have submitted  to council a truly barking mad idea, on how to raise rebuild revenue. The board is calling for a $5 levy to be imposed all international passenger departures, from Christchurch, for five years.  Brilliant – just what we need. Another niggly, grasping levy, just like the government’s odious petrol excise hike. Christchurch Airport is repulsed by the proposal, which is cutely ironic given their cash-grabbing propensity, from hiking airline landing charges to ratcheting up commercial vehicle fees.  But the airport company is right. A new departure tax would be about as popular as placing trolls on the Waimakariri and Rakaia bridges.

( Mike’s weekly column on local current affairs, as published in The Press, every Tuesday.)7031646

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