Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Barry Soper – Why Jacinda Ardern used a defence force jet for her flying Auckland visit

OPINION:

It brought new meaning to the term “flying visit”.

Prime MInister Jacinda Ardern’s first return in almost three months to the city she loves to call her home town was virtually over before it began.

And the carbon footprint of the whistlestop trip would surely have sent shudders through the COP26 climate change talkfest in Glasgow.

She flew to and from Auckland on the Air Force’s 757. Her office says she flew north with troops on Tuesday night who had to be relocated for MIQ duties, and headed back on the big jet because it had to be returned to Wellington. Strange that, given the jet’s home base is Whenuapai.

Yeah, well, the plane apparently then flew out of the capital for Auckland again.

It was a token drop-in by a Prime Minister who seems clearly paranoid about catching Covid.

At her chat with the media at a Pacific youth vaccination event yesterday she unusually chose to keep her mask on, saying she did it because she was indoors.With the media well out of spitting distance, I wondered what the caution was all about.

Getting to know what the misery’s been like for the city edging out of a three-month lockdown would most certainly have escaped her on this visit.

The only company she visited, JMP Engineering, continued to operate during the lockdown. Its boss Michael Thornton had earlier tweeted a shot of him wearing a MAGA cap saying he had joined the movement – that’s Make Ardern Go Away.

He got his wish on that front, she wasn’t there for long – probably because she got an earful about the broken MIQ system and how international businesses could operate when their workers couldn’t get back into the country.

Perhaps more likely it was because she was told that those at the company weren’t big Labour supporters!

Thornton’s dumbfounded as to why his business was chosen for the visit. The call came out of the blue and he wasn’t aware his would be the only business Ardern would visit on her homecoming. He joked he clearly got the nod because of his good looks and charismatic personality.

So why did Ardern bother flitting in and out of Auckland?

Well, she said she went there because Parliament’s director-general Trevor Mallard cleared the way for her by lifting his silly rule of making those coming to Parliament from Auckland self-isolate for five days.

I reckon in reality she was embarrassed into it – she couldn’t avoid the city for any longer and made the visit on the day retail stores were allowed to open their doors, not that she got anywhere near them.

Nor did she get anywhere near the hospitality sector, which I’d a rgue at the very least should be allowed to open for al fresco dining given groups of 25 are now allowed to congregate outside.

As one top restaurateur observed, if she really wanted to understand and see how the city’s been brought to its knees, she should have taken a stroll in the Wynyard hospitality district.

But I guess that would have brought her into contact with those who are suffering, and they most certainly wouldn’t have gone down on a bended knee.

You have to wonder why she bothered going to the city, only to avoid those feeling the pain.

Auckland is her home, she preached repeatedly to the media, and she has friends and family who work for organisations which have been affected by Covid so she didn’t need to visit. Well, certainly not the type of visit that was arranged for her.


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