Motel bans town

SALE: Owner Steve Donnelly. The motel made world headlines in April when it issued a blanket ban against guests from Wainuiomata.
SALE: Owner Steve Donnelly. The motel made world headlines in April when it issued a blanket ban against guests from Wainuiomata.

A Palmerston North motel with its own "Basil Fawlty" has banished an entire town from its doorstep.

The 16,000 residents of the Lower Hutt suburb of Wainuiomata were slapped with a blanket ban by Palmerston North's Supreme Motor Lodge this week, after a series of misdemeanours by visiting sports teams.

Supreme's owner, Steve Donnelly-an Australian- said guests from Wainuiomata were more trouble than they were worth.

"Having had about a hundred people from there over the last couple of years and maybe one that we liked ... it is not worth it and we would do the same to anyone who causes us that level of stress."

Labour MP Trevor Mallard did his best to book into the motor lodge tonight but found out its ban extends to the nation's elected representatives.

Mr Mallard was born and bred in Wainuiomata – and it's in his Hutt South electorate.

Watched by TV One's CloseUp cameras, he advanced to the lodge's reception tonight and couldn't get in.

"The door's locked and the receptionist is moving away," Mr Mallard reported. "A gentleman is coming to the door. . .he looks grumpy."

It wasn't the Aussie owner who emerged but a large Scot who seemed to have authority over who could come in.

"As a Scotsman I don't have a vote, it doesn't matter to me, you're banned," he told the MP.

"Would you like me to write you a trespass note?"

Mr Mallard said he would, but he didn't get one.

What he did get was some more aggro from the unidentified Scotsman: "You're on my property, I've asked you to remove yourself."

Not wanting to break the law, Mr Mallard politely retreated.

The ban came after sports teams from Wainuiomata High School and the town's indoor sports club were accused of spitting, playing loud music at night, using obscene language and being unruly.

"Everyone there refuses to acknowledge the problem, and accuses the world of being out to get them. I've been there once ... I was surrounded by graffiti, and I thought, `I don't want to spend much time here'."

Mr Donnelly said teachers and parents repeatedly failed to keep their charges in check, letting them run wild in the motel's facilities.

Wainuiomata Indoor Sports Club owner Calena Hura denied the accusations and said the motel manager, Malcolm Glen described on Supreme's website as a "Basil Fawlty"after the John Cleese character had been unprofessional toward the club's indoor netball team from the start.

Wainuiomata High School's touch team was turfed out of the motel two days into its stay, but principal Rob Mill also said the motel manager was to blame.

"They are teenagers, so there is going to be some level of noise. The manager was quite unreasonable and actually quite aggressive."

Motel Association chief executive Michael Baines defended the motel's position, saying sports teams were a motelier's nightmare. "As long as it obeys the law, we would back up any motelier's right to make decisions regarding their business."

Accommodation providers are subject to anti-discrimination laws under the Human Rights Act, but geographical area is not a prohibited ground of discrimination.

STUPID, UNFAIR, OUTRAGOUS

Prominent Wainuiomata locals have hit back at the motel's move to ban people hailing from their suburb with one even threatening to stay there for a week.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard, born and bred in Wainuiomata, said the move was absolutely outrageous.

"It's stupid and very, very unfair. It shows the sort of blind prejudice I thought we didn't have in New Zealand anymore. I'm not surprised the [owner's] Australian."

He questioned the legality of the ban under hotel licensing rules and offered to meet the motel management and work through the issue.

Mr Mallard said Wainuiomata contained a wide range of people, including conservationists and scientists, and had produced some of the country's leading sportsmen.

Former All Black Captain Tana Umaga and Lions captain Piri Weepu both hailed from the 1960s development that came to be known as "Nappy Valley".

Wainuiomata rugby league stalwart and sports commentator Ken Laban said the whole thing was a joke but the hotel owners were cutting themselves out of a market of 16,000 persons.

"Give me their number and I'll go and book myself in for a week. I'll be recommending to all my friends that they go and stay there.

"There are some people I know in Wainuiomata I wouldn't have over to stay, but there are more in Khandallah and Ngaio. Wainui is just the tip of the iceberg, you've got dodgy types like Bill English in Karori."

Wainuiomata ward councillor Ray Wallace denied the suburb had an attitude problem and said the community always rallied around people in times of need.

"When we had a fundraiser for victims of 9/11, Wainuiomata as a single area raised the most money out of the whole country."

The town should not be punished for the actions of "a few young, high-spirited sports players", he said.

- With NZPA

The Dominion Post