Great idea … the closer you live to the ticket booth, the cheaper should be your entry fee

A cheaper deal is on offer for locals.

A cheaper deal is on offer for locals.

The Waitangi National Trust has concocted a fee-charging formula that should be applied more widely around the country.

Under this formula, people who live close to the Waitangi Treaty Ground are treated more favourably than people who live further away.

The scheme was disclosed in a news item from Radio NZ after the trust decided to make people pay to get into the treaty grounds.

As of Saturday, as Alf understands it, New Zealanders will pay $15 to visit the treaty grounds with children up to 18 free if accompanied by parents or caregivers.

The charge for overseas visitors will remain at $25 with children free.

The Waitangi National Trust is telling us that charging Kiwis is necessary because the drop in tourism caused by the global financial crisis means there are no longer enough fee-paying overseas visitors to subsidise free entry for locals.

This has raised the dander of Kelvin Davis and taken his mind – for now – off his party’s leadership circus (which itself would command an entry fee and pull in crowds of those who enjoy a great farce).

Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis says hapu and whanau members, whose ancestors signed the treaty, won’t be able to afford to visit the grounds.

But the trust’s chief executive, Greg McManus, said they have introduced a loyalty card which will allow Far North residents unlimited visits for a year for $5 and all other New Zealanders for $25.

Admission will also be free for four days a year, he said.

Alf was momentarily mind-boggled by this discrimination.

But he soon relaxed and mused on the possibilities.

With a bit more refinement, the fee could be further scaled so that visitors to the Treaty Ground from Stewart Island would be charged much more than visitors from Christchurch, who would be charged much more than visitors from Palmerston North. And so on…

A similar distance scale could – and should – be applied to visitors from overseas. Brits should pay more than Aussies.

Then the scheme could be broadened to favour locals ahead of others elsewhere around NZ.

Alf sees great possibilities for the Mt Bruce National Wildliefe Centre just down the road from his home.

The centre offers these deals at the moment.

Individual Membership
$60.00

Individual Membership offers the following:

12 months unlimited access to Pukaha Mount Bruce

Complimentary tea or coffee at Wild Cafe at Pukaha (just show them your membership card when you visit)

Regular newsletters

Price: $60.00

Read more about Individual Membership

Couples Membership

$100.00

Couples Membership offers the following for two adults

12 months unlimited access to Pukaha Mount Bruce

A complimentary tea or coffee each at Wild Cafe at Pukaha when you visit (just show your membership card)

Regular newsletters

Price: $100.00

And so on…

But the way things should work at Mt Bruce – following the Waitangi formula – is to heap much heftier charges on people who aren’t locals.

Meanwhile, Alf must remonstrate with the aforementioned Kelvin Davis, who apparently has been yelping to his local newspaper.

The return of entry fees for Kiwis at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is “outrageous” according to newly elected Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis, who is pinning the blame squarely on the Government.

And…

Mr Davis, however, said if there was one place in the country that should be free to New Zealanders, it was the birthplace of the nation.

The finger should be pointed directly at the Government, which he said had a duty to fund the Waitangi National Trust, which owns the Treaty Grounds, so Kiwis did not have to pay.

Trust chief executive Greg McManus said unlike other sites of national significance, the Treaty Grounds received no operational funding from the Government. Instead the trust relied on admission fees and income from its land and forest.

But wait a mo’.

Government funding had never been offered and never asked for, Mr McManus said.

But the big hoot comes from the ranks of NZ First.

The NZ Herald reports:

Mr Peters today said Mr Davis was “120 per cent correct” to say New Zealanders shouldn’t be charged.

“It sends all the wrong signals. You’re charging people to see your history either international or domestic it just doesn’t make any sense from a historical point of view, it really is a very unfortunate development, it should never have happened and should never have got to that state of affairs.”

But this puts him at odds with one of his new MPs, Waitangi National Trust chairman Pita Paraone.

Speaking from Thailand today Mr Paraone said as chairman of the trust he was “very supportive” of the decision to charge New Zealanders, “although saddened to have to make it”.

“The reality is that we have a responsibility to care for that estate and if you consider the state it has been kept in over the years I think the trust has done an excellent job but with the declining overseas visitor rates, this is follow on effect of that lack of income from that source.”

For the record, The Boss has said charging New Zealanders for entry was “a step in the wrong direction”.

“It’s a very special place for such a long list of reasons and I think conceptually I think it would be much better to keep as free entry for New Zealanders.”

Both Peters and Davis said the Government should give the trust more funding to allow it to keep free entry for New Zealanders but The Boss said that wasn’t going to happen.

“They might argue for that but I think I would probably make the case that they’ve been making substantial investments over the last four or five years from what I can see, they seem to have done that very satisfactorily from the income stream they’ve got.”

Paraone won’t be telling us how strong an income stream this happens to be.

Yes, the trust has an investment portfolio “and I’m reluctant to give you details of that.”

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