The Prime Minister's pursuit of a new national flag has created a rod for his own back. Now, every time he tries to advance something that does not address one of the country's more pressing problems, he is harangued. This week, it was the United Future leader, Peter Dunne, questioning his priorities over the prospect of pandas residing at the Wellington Zoo.
The criticism was misplaced. The Wellington City Council is assessing the business case for joining Adelaide as the only Southern Hemisphere city with the animals. As the Minister of Tourism, John Key has an obvious interest in this. If Wellington Zoo could replicate Adelaide, where visitor numbers shot up after the pandas arrived, there are clear benefits for the city and the country.
Mr Key was, therefore, hardly out of order in suggesting the Government could help Wellington with the cost, but "it wouldn't be a lot". This would be no different from the Australian Government's financial support to Adelaide for the care of its pandas.
The Government's only other input was to have Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee deliver a proposal to bring the animals to Wellington during a visit to a panda breeding centre in Chengdu. For that, he was labelled a "panda pimp" by Labour leader Andrew Little, whose judgment was as errant as that of Mr Dunne.
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Pandas would be a considerable tourist attraction, and all New Zealanders would be delighted to have them. It is quite reasonable for the Government to take an interest.
Debate on this article is now closed.