Exposure worth more than tour costs
As you've no doubt already heard, the royals have arrived in New Zealand.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with baby Prince George in tow, touched down in Wellington yesterday for a 12-day tour of New Zealand, before heading on to Australia.
Any royal visit, but particularly one by the glamorous William and Catherine and the newest heir to the British throne, inevitably attracts huge media and public interest. If yesterday was anything to go by, we can expect more close scrutiny of their attire (especially Kate's), facial expressions, mannerisms and every public utterance.
Just as inevitable as the public giddiness, though, is the public cynicism at the time, energy and money that is expended on such symbolic occasions. The $1.2 million cost to taxpayers for the visit has already been met with strong criticism in some quarters, and one can easily sympathise with the argument that public money shouldn't be spent hosting a young family who enjoy huge privilege and are of little practical relevance to New Zealanders.
Putting both the hype and the skepticism to one side, though, the visit by William and Kate is undoubtedly good for the country. Rightly or wrong, the young couple attract huge international media interest wherever they go. The exposure New Zealand will receive while they're here is worth much more to the country than the price paid by taxpayers to host them. People of William and Kate's star power drive tourism; people will see them here, decide to come here themselves, and the money they spend on transport, accommodation and shopping ultimately ends up in the pockets of Kiwis working in those sectors.
Whatever one's personal feelings towards the monarchy as an institution, and the royals as people, there's no question that they are a phenomenon that still captures the public's imagination. So, if you're giddy with excitement that William, Kate and Prince George are here, good for you. If not, don't sweat it, it's no bad thing. It was incredibly sad to learn of the death of cyclist Jocelyn Goodwin in an accident involving a truck in Palmerston North at the weekend.
A teacher at Hokowhitu School, she was clearly a woman full of life whose death will leave a huge hole in her family, among her friends, and in her school community. Speaking in today's Manawatu Standard, her husband Garry Wadsworth makes a sensible and sensitive plea for his wife's death not to become "another chapter in the war between motorists and cyclists". Hopefully those wise words are heeded and this accident leads to greater awareness by all road users, not another round of petty finger-pointing.