Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Marlborough fails to see funny side of Air NZ's 'Beastheim'

The mayor of Blenheim is sick of the town being associated with Stuart Murray Wilson. Photo / APN
The mayor of Blenheim is sick of the town being associated with Stuart Murray Wilson. Photo / APN

Air New Zealand's Halloween renaming of Blenheim as Beastheim on its grabaseat website hit a bum note with the town's mayor, who says residents are sick of being associated with one of the country's worst sex offenders.

The airline jumped into the Halloween spirit by giving destinations spooky pseudonyms such as Spookland (Auckland), Spellington (Wellington) and Witchchurch (Christchurch).

However, Marlborough District Council Mayor Alistair Sowman failed to see the funny side of Beastheim.

Stuart Murray Wilson, dubbed the Beast of Blenheim, was paroled under strict release conditions in August to a property in the grounds of Wanganui Prison.

He served 18 years of a 21-year sentence for multiple sexual and violent crimes against women, children and animals in the Blenheim area.

Mr Sowman said nobody wanted to be reminded of the former resident.

"I've got no issue with what they're trying to achieve, but to link us back to the Beast of Blenheim I guess is inappropriate - we're actually trying to move on from that part of our history."

He was concerned about victims in the area who were trying to get on with their lives.

"To keep seeing the place referred to with those connections is disappointing for them."

Air NZ has since changed Blenheim's name to Ghostheim on the grabaseat site.

Mr Sowman said he was pleased about that but an apology to residents would be appropriate.

"They might care to do that or they might care to give us a few days of cheap seats to make up for it."

Air NZ did not reply to questions about whether it would apologise to Blenheim residents.

Wanganui District Council Mayor Annette Main said she thought Air NZ's promotion had missed the mark.

"I know you've got to have a sense of humour, but something needs to be funny I guess or relevant.

"I think they were running out of imagination, certainly on the Blenheim one and certainly on the Wanagnui one (Wronganui) as well."

- APNZ

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