The Fyre Festival was just like this Labour government – all smoke, no fyre

Broken promises, paying more for less… National MP Chris Bishop draws parallels between the doomed Fyre Festival and the Labour government.

I’ve just got back from my honeymoon (it was great, thanks for asking). Browsing idly one night on my iPad, I noticed that Netflix had a new documentary called Fyre.

I’d vaguely heard the stories back in 2017 about it, but couldn’t remember many details. A terrible photo of disgusting food came to mind. Jenna and I watched it one night. Fyre is a genuinely shocking story. Almost unbelievable. It’s the story of a few opportunists who promised big, but delivered small.

They wanted to throw a music festival on a private island once owned by Pablo Escobar. The plan was amazing: fly in thousands of young people on private jets and put them up in luxury accommodation.

It was going to be awesome. They’d have the best acts (OK, so I’d never heard of any of them other than the awful Blink 182, but the documentary assured me they were the best). The best food. It was Trump-like. Everything would be the best. All these kids would have the time of their lives. They threw a glitzy launch on social media featuring a couple of rich kids plus beautiful models telling everyone Fyre would be like nothing they’d ever experienced.

The festival duly comes around and everyone involved realises it’s going to be a flop. No luxury accommodation; just disaster recovery tents – and not enough of them. No bands. Not enough toilets. Not enough food. Not enough security.

But the geniuses behind Fyre Festival decide they’re going to crack on anyway and screw over the people who’d bought tickets.

They hadn’t done their homework. They hadn’t delivered on their promises. And they wouldn’t admit it was going down the gurgler.

There’s a sense of impending doom as you watch the documentary. It just keeps getting worse, and worse, and worse. 

I know quite a few people who’ve mentioned they just sat in disbelief once it was all done and the Netflix logo popped back up on the screen. They were shocked there could be people so focused on the spin and the photo-ops and the glory of it all to remember the commitments they made to people. Shocked people could be so content with overpromising and under-delivering. 

Phil Twyford (Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images)

But… I just couldn’t shake the feeling I’d seen it all before. That I was seeing it play out every day from this government.

It seems like Phil Twyford has been watching Fyre for ideas for KiwiBuild. He promised 1000 KiwiBuild houses by July this year and we’ve got 47.

Phil Twyford threw a glitzy party too. Even Jacinda came. They thought a little street party in Papakura with a few photo-ops and bit of music would be enough to win over Kiwis who could already smell it was a bit dodgy.

I will give Phil Twyford a bit of credit though. While the Fyre guys paid at least $20,000 a pop for a few promotional Instagram posts, Phil Twyford and Jacinda Ardern only spent about 18 grand of taxpayer money!  

I reckon Shane Jones also stumbled upon Fyre when he was, admittedly, probably searching for something else. He seems to have really taken on board the Fyre approach to spraying a bunch of other people’s money around for not much in return.

The brains behind Fyre Fest took $26 million from investors and, even though it was a disaster, managed to create a couple hundred jobs in the process. Shane Jones has taken $26 million from taxpayers and only managed to create 54 jobs! And a bit like the Fyre guys, Shane’s got an almost unlimited line of credit – $3 billion from the long-suffering taxpayer.

Shane Jones (Photo: RNZ)

One deeply depressing scene in Fyre is when the organisers arrange for wristbands for everyone so the festival can be cash-free. They then get someone to call everyone coming and tell them “everyone else” is loading about $3000 on their bands. 

Paying more for less? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it – it’s exactly what’s happening under Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson. Soon they’ll be asking for even more through a capital gains tax. Like the poor souls at Fyre – watch your wallets.

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One of the saddest things about Fyre is the disappointment felt by the Bahamians, who have much less money than the wealthy people who arrive on their island looking to party. They were looking forward to Fyre – the jobs, the income, the investment, the social progress. But things turn out very differently. One poor woman ends up out of pocket by thousands. Labourers go unpaid.

In New Zealand, Labour have made big claims on poverty. Eighteen months in, food parcel requests are at record levels. The number of children in benefit dependent households is up. The number of family violence referrals for child abuse and neglect is up. The number of recorded offences against children under the age of 15 for serious assault resulting in injury is up. The number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETS) is up.  The number of total early childhood enrolments is down.

The basic idea at the heart of the Fyre doco is that the organisers had an incredible vision; but one they had no idea about how to put into action, and one they couldn’t admit, even at the very end, was impossible to deliver.

The Fyre Festival. Just like this Labour government. All smoke. No fyre.


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