New Zealand's thriving same-sex marriage industry under threat from Australian referendum

JACKSON THOMAS
Last updated 05:00 08/10/2017
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Australians Dan Jarvis and Allen Broad had 50 friends and family fly to Queenstown for their wedding.

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Allen Broad and Dan Jarvis traveled from Brisbane to Queenstown for their wedding in early September.

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New Zealand wedding destinations could lose business if Australia votes "yes" to same-sex marriages, industry experts say.

Australia is currently voting in a national referendum on whether to allow same-sex marriage.

The debate has become increasingly heated as both sides looked to strengthen their arguments ahead of a final result expected on November 15.

However, New Zealand has to date been happily cashing in on Australia's conservatism.

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Since legalising same-sex marriage in 2013, New Zealand's same-sex tourism industry has exploded as couples travelled from overseas to tie the knot.

Statistics New Zealand figures for 2016 show 471 same-sex marriages or civil unions were registered in New Zealand to overseas residents, almost the same as the total number of same-sex Kiwi couples who tied the knot: 483. 

That number has been steadily increasing since 2013.

Dan Jarvis and Allen Broad travelled from Brisbane to Queenstown for their wedding in early September. 

The couple had been together 15 years and had wanted to get married "for quite a while", Jarvis said.

"The Australian Government were too slow to get with reality and with the rest of the world, so we had our wedding in Queenstown and couldn't of picked a better location."

More than 50 family and friends made the trip. 

There would be a big drop in the number of Aussies coming to New Zealand to get married, should Australia make gay marriage legal, he said.

Currently, five Australian states legally recognised same-sex marriages conducted in New Zealand. 

One of Sydney's leading civil wedding celebrants, Stephen Lee, said New Zealand would always be a place for destination weddings, but agreed that the number of same-sex ceremonies would drop if Australia voted "yes".

Lee specialises in ceremonies for same-sex couples who marry in New Zealand, and he also holds a ceremony back in Australia so that the couple's family and friends can celebrate with them. 

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"Many of those couples would have preferred to have married at home, but were forced to go overseas," Lee said.

Australia's wedding industry had already begun preparing to cash in on same-sex marriage if it's made legal, he said.

"I'm already formulating plans with photographers, florists, caterers and wedding planners – some of which are gay-owned and run businesses – to market directly to same-sex couples."

Auckland marriage celebrant Sheryl Mungall has been in the business for more than 25 years.

Since 2013, she's specialised in same-sex weddings and had done more than 50 ceremonies to date, the majority of whom came from Australia and Asia, she said.

"A marriage reform will have a big impact on my business and tourism in New Zealand on the whole," Mungall said.

"Most couples also honeymoon before or after their wedding here so that can bring in a lot of spending." 

- Sunday Star Times

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