Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Cheeky 'free' dinner prompts cash donations

Grant Kerr and Diane Robertson. Photo / Michael Craig
Grant Kerr and Diane Robertson. Photo / Michael Craig

As Auckland City Mission prepares for its Christmas Day dinner for the needy, it has revealed a silver tinsel lining to the cloud of Chinese tourists who gate-crashed last year. Organisers were aghast after a rogue tour operator took 10 Chinese visitors to the free lunch.

The tourists later said the operator had promised them visits to farms, geyser parks and buffet dinners - but instead took them to free public events.

City Missioner Diane Robertson said the Auckland Chinese community stepped forward with cash donations. They were "very upset about these touts giving them a bad name and there are a lot of Chinese people out there who are in need too," she said. "In the aftermath, we received a significant amount of money in donations, including one anonymous gift of $1,000."

Robertson said there would be no extra security this year as she believed a repeat performance was highly unlikely. "Anyone lining up for hours with paper plates for free food when they don't need to would have to be pretty desperate."

Budget airline Jetstar has made a handsome $25,000 donation.

This year's lunch is at the Viaduct Events Centre on Auckland's waterfront and will be staffed by 500 volunteers.

Jetstar NZ head Grant Kerr said the airline was delighted to offer ongoing support. "It is important for Jetstar to engage with the New Zealand community and this is a key event for us."

Jetstar and APN, publishers of the Herald on Sunday, continue to support the Mission and encourage others to help. Both are rallying their staff to donate food and gifts. Auckland Jetstar crew will be packing food parcels at the Mission and some have volunteered to work at the Christmas Day lunch.

- Herald on Sunday

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