On my recent trip to the South Island I stayed in a Wellington hotel on the way there and back. We chose the cheapest central city hotels we could find.
We arrived quite late in the afternoon and left early in the morning at both, so it made no sense to spend a lot of money.
Both were tidy and clean and that's all that really mattered
One did, however, have a mini bar.
Mini bars are expensive. I have been to hotels where a small packet of chips or small bar of chocolate is $5. I don't partake. I have occasionally had one of the small bottles of wine from them.
This mini bar had a reasonably priced medium-sized bottle of wine that we shared. I ticked the correct box on the mini bar tab and took it to reception the next morning where I handed it over and paid for it.
I knew if I didn't the hotel would simply deduct it from my credit card.
I'm sure they do that on a regular basis when people forget to pay or maybe think they might just be able to get away with it. But no, every hotel you stay at takes your credit card details — and rightly so.
So here's my question. How have guests in MIQ facilities managed to clock up almost $7 million in overdue fees?
On TV One News on Monday night it was reported that figures they had obtained showed the Government was owed "$6,907,434 in overdue invoices from MIQ guests, with $3,792,298 owed by guests who stayed at facilities last year".
Now I get that some of these people were desperate to come home and would not have the money to pay even though they knew they should.
But $7m? I reckon just about any other business in the country would be down the gurgler if they had an outstanding debt of that amount.
The hotels are obviously being paid by the Government to look after these guests. Lucky for them it's not their job to call in the debt.
At the moment guests are given 90 days to pay up. That's a long time in the scheme of things.
Most businesses send out invoices at the end of the month and expect payment by the 20th of the following month. Although these days some businesses send their invoice out the very next day and ask for payment within seven days.
Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins said during the news item that the Government would be reducing the time to pay to 30 days. It will also bring in debt collectors if guests don't pay.
Well hello. What a jolly good idea. Thirty days to pay and then debt collectors. That's what happens to the rest of us with any debt.
I know that there are some people whose circumstances change after they get back to New Zealand. Maybe a promised job falls through or they come back to find family members in need of help.
There is plenty of room for compassion but $7m is a lot of compassion.
Maybe some people think "oh well it's just the Government, it can afford it".
Well it can't - Labour has been handing out money all over the place for a long time now — it can't go on forever.
Linda Hall is assistant editor at Hawkes's Bay Today.