John Key hails cycling tourism, water venture

CHEERS: Prime Minister John Key at the opening of the E'Stel Water Bottling Plant on Friday.
Alden Williams

CHEERS: Prime Minister John Key at the opening of the E'Stel Water Bottling Plant on Friday.

Prime Minister John Key spent the day in Nelson championing the Tasman Cycle Trail and sampling the product of a local startup water company.

Key and his wife Bronagh yesterday met with local cycle trail tourism providers in Mapua before heading to the opening of the E'stel Water bottling plant in Tahunanui.

At the Jellyfish Cafe on Mapua Wharf, Key said the cycleway initiative that was first suggested at the Government's Job Summit had been a huge success.

He said it was never meant to be "the saviour of the New Zealand economy" but had helped give the country one of the busiest tourism years on record.

He said almost 3 million international visitors had come to New Zealand last year and the country's cycleways had hosted almost 100,000 people in January.

Key said Tourism New Zealand's strategy was to attract the "right type of tourist" who was going to stay a while and spend money. The "bums on seats" model was not beneficial to the country, he said.

Lisa Mann and Nicky McBride of Wheelie Fantastic cycle tours said they hoped the trail and the Mapua area could be turned into a year-round venture. They started their company four years ago and have ridden the wave of success from the cycle trail. "We knew this was a really good place for cycling," Mann said. "The cycle trail was a good bonus of being in the right place at the right time."

Key then officially opened the bottling plant of E'stel Water in Tahunanui - a company that was started by brothers-in-law Andrew Strang and Wayne Herring who were both made redundant from Solid Energy's Stockton Mine last year.

"It shows you in life sometimes out of adversity comes great opportunity," Key said.

He said there was nothing more exciting that building a small company and turning it into a big one and he lauded the directors' bravery.

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Strang said he wanted to create an international product that could go to many markets and knew that exporting premium artesian bottled water around the world would fit the bill.

The trio invested more than $1 million into the business and have a contract to supply up to 1000 containers a year into China, as well as deals under way with Australia, America and the Middle East.

They have already exported a couple of trial shipments and have over a million bottles stored ready for bottling to begin next week.

The plant will initially employ about 15 staff on the production line but this was expected to grow as the company expanded.

The trio looked at different regions to base E'stel but chose Nelson due to their family links in the area, good access to the port and the ability to extract water from a specially drilled 1km deep bore in the Waimea Plains.

Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dot Kettle said they were "an absolute inspiration".

"They have really got a commitment to generating wealth and jobs in our region."

Nelson MP Nick Smith said the country and the region needed more ventures like E'stel to lift the economy. He said the company added to "the bow of fruit and fish that helps Nelson and New Zealand sell its story".

 - The Nelson Mail

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