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It’s fairly obvious to most people who know me that I’m not easily offended. I’m not one to get too upset at a crass joke, and I’ve always been pretty clear in my lack of support for Nanny-state politicians telling people how they should think or act.

 

Even for me though, Wicked Campers are a step too far. I am appalled by some of the slogans used by this company, its disrespect for women and the wider public, and I am determined to do something about it.

No one has the right to denigrate (mostly) women in this way, and certainly not in such a public way.

I am not going to give Wicked Campers any more oxygen by repeating some of its slogans, they have been well and truly canvassed in the media. But what I am going to do is, along with some of my ministerial colleagues, find a way to get those slogans taken off the vans and apply penalties should they reappear.

Anyone with small children knows that those little minds are like sponges, and when they learn how to read they want to soak up everything, read it aloud and repeat it as much as possible. Words are fun, and they especially get a kick out of bad words.

As a mother and a grandmother, it bothers me that small children are reading this appalling messaging and asking questions no parent wants to answer. How do you go about explaining rape to a child, let alone when it appears on the back of a van on a public road?

Like I have said, this isn’t about telling people what they should think or find funny. That’s your call. But freedom of speech is both a right and a responsibility, meaning you should attempt at least a basic level of respect for others. Wicked Campers show nothing but disrespect and hatred, and I don’t think that’s how we do things in New Zealand. 

Ultimately though, this is about more than what I think. This is being a positive, friendly, safe nation that attracts literally millions of visitors every year because of that reputation. As Associate Tourism Minister, I hate the thought that people either come here and get the wrong impression about what we stand for, or choose not to come because of the thuggish insults thrown around by one company.

I’ve been heartened by the public feedback I’ve received since speaking out about Wicked Campers. From countless letters and messages on social media through to seeing businesses like the Kaiteriteri Campground banning the Wicked vans from their premises.

The good news is we can and will do something about this. The Department of Conservation have removed Wicked from its information listing for those wanting to hire campervans. The Chief Censor believes that the slogans on the vans fall under the definition of a publication his office can restrict of prohibit, and we’re expecting him to issue a ruling in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, there’s several things you can do. If you’re a business owner, you could consider not allowing these vans on your property. If you’re a tourist, consider using another affordable rental company – they’re definitely not the only one. If you’re wanting to make a complaint, help the Chief Censor by taking photos of all four sides of the van and sending them to info@classificationoffice.govt.nz. Or you can email me at paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz

Thanks for your support.

Paula

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