Festival boosts tourism economy

GEORGE GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 08/11/2012
Nikki Kaye

TOURISM DRAWCARD: Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye, left, and Associate Minister for Tourism Chris Tremaine, right, are greeted at Matiatia wharf by Waiheke Walking Festival co-ordinator Jenness Reeve and Waiheke Local Board deputy chairwoman Jo Holmes.

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A tramp through Te Atawhai Whenua Reserve was on the cards for MP for Auckland Central Nikki Kaye and Associate Minister for Tourism Chris Tremaine.

They came to experience the Waiheke Walking Festival for themselves, after the festival became the first recipient of the Event Award at the Outdoors Awards in Wellington last month.

Waiheke Walking Festival co-ordinator Jenness Reeve and Waiheke Local Board deputy chairwoman Jo Holmes greeted the pair off the 9am ferry on Saturday morning.

It was a walk in the park for Ms Kaye who swapped her high heels for a spare set of trainers.

And it won't be the last time we see her out and about on the island.

"I'm planning to spend some time on Waiheke over the summer to train for the Coast to Coast in February. It's a challenge but I'm up for it," Ms Kaye says.

Mrs Reeve believes the nine-day festival has had a big impact on the tourism economy.

"We did a very conservative estimate of what has been spent in the Waiheke economy over the nine days with the walkers and it is a fairly hefty $100,000-plus," she says.

Local board tourism spokeswoman Ms Holmes says the walking festival is a "fantastic thing for the island".

"It gives us a huge amount of publicity.

"The more people who come here and have a good time the better it is for everyone as they go back and talk about it."

Ms Holmes has also spoken to Ms Kaye over people's concerns about the impact big events at Queens Wharf are having on Gulf Island residents and businesses.

"I've had lots of stories from people, including the disabled, who couldn't get through to where they needed to at Labour Weekend because Queen's Wharf was closed off for the triathlon. It seems to have had a negative effect on our businesses and the public in general."

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