TALKING TOURISM

There has been talk about the growth in the numbers and spending of tourists from China, and how it is set to overtake Britain as our second largest tourism market. But while the Ministry of Transport has done a great job in renegotiating air-service arrangements with China, effectively allowing for a trebling of flights between the two countries, New Zealand is still not getting its full share of the overall China outbound market, which is growing more quickly than China inbound to NZ. This has led to some debate in the sector, and Martin Snedden of the Tourism Industry Association and others have spoken out about the need for the industry to shape its own destiny rather than rely on government help. Air NZ has taken a slightly different stance, telling the government it hasn't been doing enough to generate demand and support its investment in markets. This was interpreted by some as a criticism of Tourism NZ, and implicitly, the Tourism Minister. All of which makes it even more interesting that the PM's deputy chief of staff, Phil de Joux, is joining Air NZ as its new government affairs manager.

DEMOCRACY CITY
Kiwis enjoy their appearances on those surveys of the world's most liveable cities, or nations, but the Insider isn't sure the government will celebrate Wellington's second placing in a list of the world's best capitals for democratic action. For a new book, Democracy and Public Space, British academic Dr John Parkinson toured the world's capitals, assessing the accessibility of public buildings, meeting spaces, parks, footpaths and public transport. Berlin topped the list, followed by our very own windy city. Meaning, presumably, that if you're planning a protest/riot/revolution, Wellington is hard to beat.

CRISIS OF FAITH
An investment fund that was meant to appeal to Catholics is closing, reports the Financial Times, "after its managers lost faith in its ability to attract investors". JPMorgan Asset Management had hoped punters would flock to its Global Catholic Ethical Balanced Fund, which chose investments with the help of church advisers, and avoided putting money into companies involved in birth control, or governments of countries with the death penalty. The paper points out that the fund's failure contrasts with the success of funds compliant with Shariah law, which have been in strong demand among Muslim investors.

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GOING QUIETLY
Odd, the way Retirement Commissioner Diana Crossan's planned departure was revealed this week. The ANZ fired out a release on Wednesday afternoon, acknowledging the fine work Crossan had done to improve Kiwis' financial literacy. This was before any official announcement that she was going. When contacted, Crossan was happy to confirm that she is leaving the job, but as of press time there had still been no official announcement.

PORT SORT
Some observers are wondering whether National's new-found keenness for central planning might extend to sorting out the country's northern ports. The recent war - well, more a skirmish - of words between Tauranga and Auckland port bosses is a sign of the below-the-surface pressure for some sort of rationalisation. The free marketers in National would say let them compete, and may the best port win. But others believe the current ownership structures means all the ports will muddle along, when the international trend is towards mega-ports. The land now occupied by Auckland's port is incredibly valuable, and there are powerful interests who would prefer it was used for other purposes which would make more economic sense. Some are suggesting to ministers that the wide praise for central planning solutions in Christchurch, from both the left and right, might mean there is room for some intervention - or at least mild nudging - towards sorting out the northern ports issue.

PARTY LINES
In Britain, "all Parliament groups" are commonplace. This is where MPs from various political parties join together to push nonpartisan causes, in the hope they can convince their colleagues to support the issue. They are less common in New Zealand, perhaps because we have fewer MPs and our partisan lines are so sharply drawn. It came as a surprise to some when the North Shore MP, Maggie Barry, announced the formation of an all Parliament group on palliative care. A very worthy cause, no doubt, but Opposition MPs will be a bit wary, as Barry has proven to be one of the most partisan of the new MPs in Parliament, quick to take on anyone who holds different political views to her own.

NICE NEW PLACE
There's a new kid on the block in the Auckland hotel business. With tourism needing a boost, PM John Key would have been pleased at the opening of the Auckland Airport Sudima Hotel yesterday. Sudima Group CEO Sudesh Jhunjhnuwala invited guests to spend the afternoon with himself and the PM, and private tours of the hotel were run throughout the afternoon.