The Dom Post editorial:
Wellington would love to have pandas in its zoo, of course. Pandas have a unique appeal to human beings: nature made them look like a cross between a clown and a teddy bear. So arguments about the economics and politics of pandas tend to get trumped by an overwhelming cuteness factor.
Prime Minister John Key is keen to stoke the panda cause, for two reasons. He wants to cuddle up even closer to China, our economic patron. And he knows that politicians who come bearing pandas can’t lose.
So it was that Andrew Little, the hapless Labour leader and an anti-panda politician, got it wrong again in Parliament this week.
Anything National talks about, and Little is against it. Raise benefits for the first time in 43 years, and Little condemns the Budget!
Finally, panda politics are murky. The panda circus is run by China, a ruthless police state, which gives its pandas to political and economic favourites. This means John Key might get one.
The question then is: How to divide the cost of pandas? The Government says it would help, and so it should. After all, this is a geopolitical project of John Key’s, so his administration should contribute most of the money.
Wellington would also benefit, of course, so it would have to put in money too, but there are strict limits here. Wellingtonians are as prone to panda-madness as anyone, but Wellington ratepayers have notoriously cold hearts.
Apart from vague geopolitical benefits, I don’t see benefits to taxpayers. Any taxpayer contribution should be minimal. Pandas will not get any more tourists to NZ. They will get many more people coming to Wellington, so hence there is a case for ratepayer funding. However a price tag anywhere near $10 million is just way out of the ballpark.