NZ keeps on winning from RWC - report

Long-term benefits of hosting the Rugby World Cup last year are likely to be more significant than winning the event, a government report says.

Enduring benefits identified in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment study included positive visitor experiences, new connections, new major-event capability, infrastructure developments and raised interest in volunteering.

Consistently high attendances at matches demonstrated the tournament's success, with 1.48 million matchday attendances and stadium capacity usage across the entire tournament reaching 94 per cent.

Statistics New Zealand estimated 133,200 visitors from more than 100 countries attended, well above forecasts of 71,000 to 85,000 visitors.

A key government goal in bidding for the tournament was to demonstrate New Zealand's ability to host major events. This was achieved, the report said.

In most cases, necessary infrastructure was provided, with transport infrastructure performing "very well", despite major transport problems in Auckland on opening night, because of a larger-than-expected influx to the waterfront.

Overall, sufficient accommodation was provided, with Tourism New Zealand identifying a pattern towards free and independent travel, including the widespread use of campervans. Auckland accommodation was full, but some parts of the country, particularly the South Island, had not been as well patronised as anticipated.

"An understanding of the planning and operational excellence required to deliver major events is now embedded within government and the wider sports community," the report said.

That was now being applied for the Fifa Under-20 World Cup and the Cricket World Cup in 2015, and the World Masters Games in 2017.

While attendance forecasts had been met and visitor forecasts surpassed, it remained to be seen how the World Cup performed against economic forecasts in the longer term.

"The economic impact of large sports events can be difficult to quantify as it is calculated on the basis of money spent that would not have been otherwise," the report said.

Modelling estimated a medium-term net expansion of the economy of 0.34 per cent of the gross domestic product, or $573 million, with an impact on the Auckland region of 0.52 per cent of GDP, or $322m.

The short-term impacts of the World Cup on the economy between 2006 and 2012, using another methodology, was assessed at $1.73 billion, with the equivalent of 29,990 jobs sustained for the equivalent of one year.

According to Statistics NZ, overseas visitor spending rose 5.7 per cent during the tournament.

It was concluded that, overall, the cup provided an economic stimulus in generally difficult times.

Surveys indicated the World Cup might have a significant tourism legacy. Tangible success would be measured by continuing tourism from target markets, but it would be difficult to isolate the cup from other influences, the report said.

Not surprisingly, only a small percentage of overseas ticketholders had been interested in doing business during the World Cup, but a network to help Kiwi businesses make new connections gained about 4500 overseas members.

Anecdotal information suggested the level of community engagement was the most significant legacy of the World Cup, the report said, while also noting that social cohesion could be difficult to quantify.

Fairfax Media