Editorial: Look before you leap

Last updated 13:00 12/02/2013

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OPINION: There will have been two quite different responses to the story of the Frenchman who shattered his femur after jumping from a bridge near Murchison last week.

Most common would be along the lines of, "Sacre bleu . . . what a stupid thing to have done" or, "Why should my taxes go towards rescuing and patching up foreign fools?"

The other likely reaction to his hard-luck story is the compassionate one: realising that such mishaps can happen to any of us, and how devastating a serious injury can be when suffered in a foreign country.

That was the response of Don Mochan and family to the plight of Yann Meury, who seriously damaged his leg when he hit the Buller River hard, after jumping into it from more than 30 metres.

By chance, Mr Meury ended up in the same room at Nelson Hospital as Mr Mochan, who was recovering from a broken hip. He invited the injured tourist's two friends to have dinner with his family - and the pair ended up staying for a week, enjoying Nelson hospitality.

More, the three young Frenchmen are now staying with another member of the family in the North Island, and will then head to Sydney and have arranged to stay there with a Mochan family friend. It might be said that they fell on their feet after suffering misfortune.

Such networking happens all the time without making it into the newspapers, but it is no less heartwarming for that. The tourists were lucky to encounter such hospitality during what would otherwise have been a totally miserable time, and there will be some payback for this country as a result.

It is a small world and people's experiences, good or bad, can be quickly and easily shared.

Mr Meury was also fortunate to have make his unlucky - or foolish - leap in this country, where the benefits of a no-fault accident compensation scheme are applied to all, including visitors from overseas. Imagine the damage to his wallet should he have tried a similar stunt, without adequate insurance, in the United States or other common tourist destinations around the globe.

ACC spokeswoman Stephanie Melville says the corporation receives around 1.6 million new claims a year and 5000 of them are typically from visitors, so the number of claims lodged by overseas visitors is comparatively small - around 0.3 per cent.

She adds that most claims by tourists are for minor injuries, which only require a one-off visit to a GP or hospital, and the scheme only covers treatment costs incurred while they are in New Zealand.

The corporation has tightened its rules significantly in recent years and cases like that involving the three Frenchmen will raise questions about whether the scheme is too generous to visitors.

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It could also be argued that tourism is a vital and growing contributor to the New Zealand economy and the feelgood benefits associated with assisting those unfortunate enough to come to grief while in this country do help to balance the cost.

Regardless of that, most Kiwis would surely wish Mr Meury and his mates a safe voyage home and a full recovery. Their story adds a rider to an old adage: don't only look before you leap, but pause long enough to consider the consequences.

- The Nelson Mail

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