Kevin O’Sullivan has recently stepped down as CEO of the New Zealand Cruise Association (NZCA), and after seven years of holding his tongue, says “I don’t have to be diplomatic any more”.
He penned this full and frank opinion piece upon his departure for New Zealand-based industry publication Tourism Ticker, and has given us permission to republish it.
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I love cruise, those beautiful ships with the allure of faraway places and the sheer vibrancy and excitement they bring to our regions and cities.
The cruise industry in New Zealand is full of people completely committed to making everybody happy, and they have put their economic lives on the line to make their businesses successful and cruise friendly. So, why do we still see so much negativity toward cruise from the officials that should be helping us?
There are a few examples (there are lots more) from the last few days, months and years that have really got up my nose; now that I’ve left I can vent my anger and maybe burn a few bridges. I’m getting grumpier every day, and I don’t have to be diplomatic any more.
The first is the Milford Opportunities Project (MOP) group, funded by government.
One of this group’s aims, without any consultation or even warning, was to decide to ban cruise ships from Milford Sound (in addition to some of the other daft things they came up with).
Banning anything from anywhere is never a great idea, but taking away one of the reasons why visitors want to come to our beautiful country is just silly.
Now the cruise industry is forced to justify why it should be in Fiordland, a place where ships are very well managed by the Southland Regional Council, and where it helps fund coastal science in a place mostly devoid of ratepayers. This has to be sorted as MOP is putting at risk a cornerstone of our tourism industry.
Next up: why does ECan (Environment Canterbury) think it will cost a million dollars to run coaches to take cruise passengers from Lyttelton to Christchurch and return?
Who is dreaming up these numbers? Why do they want to fuel anti-cruise sentiment in their community? Cruise lines are already providing coaches to take passengers into the city at a reasonable cost without any need for a subsidy from the Christchurch City Council.
I hope that this is still under investigation, and will reach a reasonable solution before the next cruise season begins.
The last one (for now anyhow) and this is a biggie – Stats NZ and the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) have decided cruise statistics will no longer be analysed!
I had my head in my hands when we were told that one.
I don’t particularly subscribe to any conspiracy theories, but really if you want to ignore the economic benefits that cruise brings to New Zealand just don’t measure it – pretend it doesn’t exist.
Did someone in MBIE decide that would be a good idea? It certainly takes the ‘Innovation’ out of that government department’s name.
Numbers matter and measurement is very important for our regions and for the many small businesses reliant on cruise to pull them through. Without those numbers, how will we know how successful we are? Dropping out now after having come so far will leave a massive hole in a data trail that has been analysed since 2015. The data is there, it just needs a willingness to do the work that Stats and MBIE must do.
I don’t like to keep reinforcing negativity so a bouquet to the good people in government that I have worked with through dark and difficult times.
It was a struggle to get cruise back after COVID and the opposition from some officials was magnified as we faced continual obstruction. Several individuals in Wellington went above and beyond to be helpful and worked with us because they knew it was the right thing to do, even if it might diminish career opportunities. Without them, we might still be waiting to see cruise ships return to New Zealand waters.
These views are my own and the new stars in NZCA will overcome these obstacles I’m sure, but please government be helpful, not hindering.