A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday, by Tim Roxborogh.
"You're not a journalist are you?" It's generally not the sort of question to make you feel you're about to make a new chum who'll soon be doing things like airport runs and helping you move.
"Well, sort of, but I'm here as a travel writer". It's fair to say the lady doing the interrogating may've been a few teeth short of a full set (not a metaphor, or at least, not entirely a metaphor) and was not especially pleased to see me.
She'd spotted me on the plane over from Auckland to Great Barrier. It wasn't hard as it was a tiny aircraft and I was in the row in front. The giveaway had been all the photos and videos I was taking, but given how stunning that 30-minute flight is, it really shouldn't have been proof I was in media.
The jig was up and once we landed, so was the question about my line of work. After explaining I was on assignment for a magazine, this was the response: "Well we don't want any more tourists! Too many coming here as it is."
With that, she was on her way. I was ready with a response about being empathetic about how tourism can be a double-edged sword: more tourists = more money = better economy v more tourists = spoiling what made a place special in the first place, but she was off.
This conversation has lodged itself in my brain because of all the places in the world to worry about over-tourism, Great Barrier Island would not be high up my list. Maya Bay in Thailand on the other hand (made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach and temporarily closed by order of the Thai Government), yes. But Barrier? This is an island that's three times the size of Waiheke Island (285sq km compared to 92sq km) but with less than one fifth of the visitor numbers.
With Barrier receiving less than 200,000 arrivals per year against Waiheke's more than a million, this is hardly a place in danger of killing the golden goose.
Tourism is the lifeblood for the roughly 1000 permanent residents who call Barrier home. And what a home it is. Mostly forested, ringed by beautiful beaches and home to stunning rocky landscapes, Great Barrier is worth any hype and absolutely worth your effort to get there.
Speaking of which, if not for the increase in tourism to the island, the only way to get to Barrier was via a long, often choppy car ferry. The dear soul who accosted me may not want to share her slice of paradise, but tourists are the reason she can fly to and from the mainland pretty much whenever she wants.
Amazing Rainbow's End Update!
A few weeks ago I wrote about how I have a soft spot for Rainbow's End, but feel New Zealand's premier theme park is hamstrung a little by the fact you can almost always see outside. As in, it's a struggle to feel truly enveloped in a magical world if you've got a visual of car parks, motorways and office blocks.
I humbly/arrogantly suggested a solution: ring the perimeter of Rainbow's End with a fast growing species of tree, namely bamboo.
I pointed out that bamboo can grow as quickly as 4.5 metres a year and to heights in excess of 40m.
The column wasn't intended to be at all mean-spirited, but I was still a fraction nervous as to how it would be received.
Get this: the new CEO of Rainbow's End, Karen Crabb, emailed me a lovely message to say thanks for the column and that rest assured, they've got plenty of exciting plans for the future.
Last week she emailed again, only this time she included a photo. What was the photo, you ask? Only several dozen young bamboo trees, ready for planting!
I can't overstate how excited I am at the prospect of one day telling my daughter (due in July): "Forget about the roller coaster, what about Daddy's forest!"
• Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com