Pay up, says Bernadine Oliver-Kerby to tourists taking advantage of our ACC system.

On a holiday to Hawaii a few years ago my husband and I were at the fabulous Ala Moana mall for a little retail therapy.

As we walked into what I thought was the shop entrance, I walked into the shop door. A big, heavy, closed glass one.

The noise of my melon hitting the glass pane turned every head in the shop and injured mine. I'd not seen the door was closed and walked straight into it. Someone had obviously done a great job cleaning the windows.


After failing to come up with an adequate reply to my husband's reaction: "what did you do that for?" we got in a taxi, headed to the hospital to get my split head glued up.

The service was brilliant. Fast, efficient. I knew I was in good hands and they knew I was good for the bill. We patted ourselves on the back for taking out that travel insurance.

If a visitor to this country does the same however, their medical bill is taken care of by New Zealand taxpayers.

Let me quote from the ACC brochure: "If you're injured during your visit to New Zealand, our unique accident compensation system can help. ACC provides 24-hour, seven-day-a-week injury cover for everyone in New Zealand, including visitors, whether you are just on holiday, or even if you are working or studying here. We can assist with the costs of treatment and support while you are here."

But wait! There's more!

"ACC is like an insurance company that provides policies that cover everyone who is injured in New Zealand. But unlike most insurance policies, you don't need to take out cover before an injury happens - you're covered simply by being in New Zealand. We can help to pay for treatment and other support you may need if you're injured. You can usually get ACC help:

• no matter how or where you get injured - inside your hotel room or out and about sightseeing, driving, hiking etc.

• no matter how old you are or whether you're a student, or working in New Zealand

• no matter whose fault it was - whether it was someone else's action or something you did that contributed to your injury.

Generous aren't we?

When our doctors are striking because their pay and work conditions aren't acceptable, and waiting for a new hip or hernia operation can be a three-year purgatory, we're stumping up the medical bills for tourists who come a cropper while on holiday.

New Zealand will soon be forced to have a serious look at its superannuation scheme, which will we won't be able to afford because of a growing and ageing population. Yet, we'll happily spot Dot and Dave who, while holidaying here have an accident, and pay very little or nothing in medical bills.

Of course, not for a second would I suggest we don't treat them. Treat them and treat them right. Then send them the bill.

Tourists coming to New Zealand should cover their own medical costs. Just like we do when we travel.

Our very own senior citizens - keen to seek sun and adventure offshore face serious barriers with the cost of travel insurance they diligently seek. I doubt many would risk the sojourn without it.

The ACC brochure reads like a glossy pamphlet selling not the merits of a holiday in the clean and green of Downunder, but instead all the perks you'll be covered for, mostly free of charge, should you have an accident.

Surgery! X-rays! Prescriptions! Transport to appointments!

Say "you're welcome", New Zealand, because the tourists here enjoying our generous ACC scheme should be saying "thank you".