So Richie McCaw is the 2016 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year. Good for him. Given the previous winners have been a philanthropist, a scientist, an artist, a historian, a doctor and a businessperson, it's probably about time a sportsperson won the title.

As twice Rugby World Cup-winning All Black captain, McCaw's influence extends far beyond the rugby field.

He has put a smile on thousands, if not millions, of faces with his stunning ability. He has made a lot of money for the publishers of his autobiography - money which has enabled them to publish less-popular volumes.

He has indirectly generated numerous jobs in industries that feed off the national sport.


Even this week he will have sold a lot of newspapers that will have had an excuse to put his face on their front page. He has helped keep the game popular and almost certainly got a few more people on to the field than would otherwise have laced up a pair of boots.

And as the great philosopher and talkback host Geoff Sinclair once noted, more people's lives have been extended by the exercise they got playing rugby than have been shortened by accidents on the field.

McCaw is also modest in an increasingly uncommon way - he didn't sell the story of his engagement to a magazine. And he turned down a knighthood. In short, he personifies a whole bunch of virtues that have traditionally been identified with the New Zealand character.

But God help him if he ever tries to get accommodation at a Blenheim backpackers.

When 20-year-old Aucklander Ryan Turney, travelling this country to get to know its nooks and crannies, paused in Blenheim to get work picking fruit he was refused accommodation at Leeways Backpackers, which has a policy of turning away New Zealanders.

Bit racist.

He could have stayed at other backpackers' accommodation in Blenheim but only after a police check that would have taken two or three days. Long enough for him to be noticed as a homeless person and probably not pass the police check.

Among the failings of New Zealanders that have been cited by hostel owners are that they are intimidating, drink too much and are "uneducated".

Backpackers from Australia, the UK and Europe, of course, sit around of an evening keeping their hands to themselves, sipping herbal tea and debating what the last line of Conrad's Heart of Darkness really means.

Even the mayor of Blenheim, who thought the ban was a bit on the nose, says the locals don't work nearly as hard as the foreigners.

This old cliche has been around for years and it's a view unlikely to be held by any New Zealander who has ever worked in, say, Australia.

Although it is good to know there's somewhere any extra refugees we take in will be able to stay, it's hard to believe that this is legal.

It certainly doesn't seem to be a nationwide policy, as lodge owners in Auckland, Hawkes Bay and Waikato have confirmed they have no such rule.

It's no more defensible than denying people service on the basis of gender, age, sexual preference, disability or political views.

And it makes the New Zealanders who do it look absurd and unreasonable, which is not a risk we want to take in a world that has John Oliver in it.

Paul Little's column last week mistakenly referred to King's College instead of King's School.
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