Most tourist seasons in New Zealand have a theme. Some years it’s backpacker attacks, some years it’s the ongoing war on freedom campers, but overall the underlying thread is the love hate relationship New Zealand has with tourists, tolerated for nothing more than the wealth they bring and despised simply for being there.
This year’s theme has been the allegedly poor driving skills of overseas tourists of non-European appearance. These are ‘so bad’ in that in some New Zealanders’ opinions they now have the right to stop foreign looking tourists, assault them and confiscate their hire car keys. This is despite the fact that only 6% of crashes in New Zealand involve foreign drivers.
Incredibly, Tony Kokshoorn, mayor of the Grey District Council, reckons drivers are so distracted by the scenery they forget to steer properly and drift to the side of the road they’re used to driving on. Because no other countries have scenery, right?
But official figures show the majority of foreign driver accidents involve nationals from countries with better roads than New Zealand’s and who are used to driving on the left (British and Australians). At least Kokshoorn had the good grace to condemn the actions of one individual in his own town who punched a tourist in the face for driving on the wrong side of the road. Yet that crime wouldn’t have been lodged as a racist attack.
The international press is well aware of New Zealand’s spate of xenophobic spite, read International Press Gets to Hear About NZ’s Anti Tourist Drivers Campaign based on a CNN report.
The local press has been skirting around this issue too. Last month the Otago Daily Times (ODT) ran an article about a Dunedin man who snatched the keys from an overseas driver.
Diesel mechanic, Robert Penman of Dunedin, made headlines in March after he took the keys of a Chinese couple who had stopped their car on a narrow single-lane road to take pictures, causing a backlog of vehicles behind them. Other people have since copied him at least four times elsewhere in New Zealand. It was later revealed that Penman didn’t even have a current driving license himself. So much for ‘vigilante justice’
The ODT requested an interview with Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy, it was rejected. So the paper lodged an Official Information Act request for all documents to and from the commissioner. Here’s the result, as told by today’s NZ Herald.
The first email, from an undisclosed employee of the Human Rights Commission immediately following the OIA request, advised the commissioner to “ignore calls and don’t answer phone“.
“Media are after you for comment on foreign drivers getting keys taken off them … we really don’t want to get into this … Police have had their say, PM is all over it etc etc so we are best to leave it at this.”
Note, the PM is also the Minister for Tourism.
A follow-up email to the commissioner said: “I want to keep comments from me so that you are not seen to be commenting on this issue at all … Right now we’ve had no complaints and it’s an operational policing issue that needs to be sorted out at that level immediately, it is also anecdotal with a lot of media hype.”
In an interview in March with TV3’s The Nation Dame Devoy was asked when she last heard of keys being snatched from a European looking driver, said she didn’t want to comment because it ‘wasn’t a race relations issue.’
”I was asked to comment, and I didn’t because we don’t want to make everything into a race relations issue. I think that’s a tourism issue.”
Accordingly not a single complaint has been passed on to the commissioner about these attacks on foreigners. Furthermore, the Prime Minister himself has taken control of the situation, effectively preventing anyone else investigating the matter.
Here’s what a migrant who lived in New Zealand has to say.
I have lived in NZ for 4 years to present & i can confidently report that they are the worst & most dangerous drivers i have ever encountered. I have driven in UK, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, USA, Ireland. The drivers in Auckland, Wellington are probably the most able drivers in NZ from my experience, probably as a result of the numbers of people driving in these two cities. However, the rest of NZ consists of small isolated towns populated by arrogant, xenophobic inbred examples of humanity & it is in the rest of NZ that you really have to drive defensively. NZ drivers really do not have a clue how to drive safely. New Zealanders are currently stopping foreign tourists when they believe that they are driving incorrectly in NZ & taking their car keys away from them with force! This is further example of the ingrained xenophobic & racist attitudes many New Zealanders have towards citizens from other countries.
Planning a New Zealand holiday? maybe think about going somewhere that doesn’t have an issue with tourists.
You may also be interested in
Police shut 30 stations in effort to combat budget cuts – “Thirty police stations have closed to the public as police struggle to balance the books. The force has quietly been reviewing its 400 “public facing” properties – which includes stations and community policing centres – as a Budget freeze continues to bite. And with resources thinly-stretched, response times to 111 calls are rising…”
NZ’s Roads Described as “Killing Fields” -The death toll on New Zealand’s roads over the Anzac weekend reached 14, prompting National Road Policing manager, Superintendent Paula Rose to describe the roads as “killing fields”. The accidents happened at a number of locations throughout the country which included Oruanui near Taupo, Tangimoana Rd, south of Bulls, Nelson, Whenuapai, SH1 north of Wellsford,…read on
An Aussie on holidays in NZ – shocked by the reality – First commendations to this site for telling the truth about NZ. Since coming to NZ on holiday about a week and a half ago, I must say I am shocked by things I’ve found. Since driving around for about 10 days, I’ve been abused about 5 times, by angry NZ drivers, this is while driving around hills and cliffs, in the rain. Given that in Australia I am lucky to be honked at every five years either (a) my driving has suddenly deteriorated in NZ or (b) New Zealanders are terrible drivers. I’ve going with the second option.
The sheer aggressiveness of the drivers here has to be seen to be believed. They seem to think that its your duty to throw yourself off a cliff so they can get there 2 minutes early. I have also been amazed at how unhelpful people are to tourists, and how utterly unwilling/unknowing they are about opening times and giving simple help. Within our first hour of driving into Auckland, we were honked at twice, and sworn at by a man with no teeth (a common occurrence here) for parking in the ‘wrong’ spot… read on
New Zealand’s Dangerous Roads -Planning a visit to New Zealand and unaware of the high number of serious accidents on its poor roads? though, to be fair its not just the roads that are dangerous, the high number of DUI drivers may be partly to blame. New Zealand has the second highest country in the world for deaths resulting…read on
Two Swedish Tourists Killed on Dangerous Northland Road -Within hours of their arrival in New Zealand two young Swedish tourists have been killed on a notorious stretch of road Source. “Relatives of two Swedish tourists who died in a car crash in Northland are being sought by Interpol to tell them of the tragedy. The two young women, both in their…read on
Another Violent Car Jacking. This Time at Awatoto Lookout, Hawke’s Bay – Car jacking continues to be something of a problem for NZ motorists, there’s been another violent car theft. This time from the Awatoto Lookout, near Napier in Hawke’s Bay. A shaken Rupert Ellis-Jones told Hawke’s Bay Today two men in a Pajero approached him as he was sitting in his car reading an e-book at 5.30pm on Tuesday. He…read on
Road rage driver’s own video is evidence against him. Hatred of cyclists in NZ – A NZ cranky driver’s video of a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre, filmed while passing a group of cyclists, has been handed to the police in the hope he’ll be charged with dangerous driving. The Stuff.co.nz report alleged that motorist Pauli Mac made the recording. The film, taken in the Hamilton area, originally appeared on the Facebook…read on
You must be logged in to post a comment.