Taranaki gardens grow well in Australia
A small group of gardeners has been taking Taranaki to Australia and spreading the good word about the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival. And it's paying off with interest from Aussie visitors higher than ever. Sonja Slinger finds out what's on offer this year.
Anne Clough has just returned from the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show where she and other Taranaki Fringe Festival organisers, chairman John Lucas, and committee members Rose Ratahi and Annette Higgs spent several days promoting the Taranaki event.
Members of the Taranaki Garden Trust have travelled to Melbourne for the last three years, showcasing the festival and are now seeing the results of that effort.
"It was very successful," said Anne, secretary/administrator of the Taranaki Garden Trust. "When we first went over, three years ago, the majority of people had never heard of Taranaki.
"Last year, we noticed more awareness about the event and our region and more people were enquiring about it. This last trip, people had definitely heard about the Fringe and were asking real questions about getting over to it, where to stay and what was on offer."
The Melbourne show attracted more than 100,000 people and the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival was the only festival being promoted for New Zealand, so it was good to have the limelight as the only New Zealand promotion, added Anne.
An Australian travel agency was already on board selling tours to Taranaki for the event and a bus was half full already, and it was still five months out.
"We had a bus load of Australian visitors that came out from our trip two years ago and we hosted a lunch at our Chairman's garden, afternoon teas and workshops for them as they visited our Taranaki Fringe Festival gardens and places of interest, many were from the Garden Clubs of Australia and they spread the word which is helping visitor numbers grow even more this year."
"This year the Australian bus tour will be showing all the Fringe gardens, with one exception Te Kainga Marire. The Australians commented that they love our real gardens for real people that they can create at home. They also get a great hearty welcome from down to earth people."
Anne said the more manicured Powerco Garden Festival complimented the Taranaki Fringe Festival as it provided a different feel and, really, the two were great at promoting Taranaki and provided a taste of something for all visitors.
The Melbourne show promotion not only focussed on the Fringe Garden Festival but also featured Taranaki as a region.
"We were telling people about the mountain, our coastal walkway, other attractions here, the Len Lye Centre. We found that people had heard of the Pouakai Crossing this year and a lot of guys were keen to know what there was for them, like golf, fishing and walks on the mountain."
Venture Taranaki supported the trip and helped with some costs, said Anne. Visitor numbers to the gardens were up 24% last year and Anne estimated those people boosted the local economy by $2 million in accommodation, food and retail plus visiting other attractions.
There are a number of new gardens in the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival this year, which runs from 27 October – 5 November, including several around Inglewood and Waitara and there is more on offer, including art and sculpture for sale to compliment the gardens.
Two gardens previously in the festival are returning, the Ortons in Stratford, and Villa Heights in rural New Plymouth.
For the first time, brochures will be available in June online by downloading off the festival website (www.taranakigardens.co.nz) and paper brochures will be out in early July and available throughout Taranaki, including at garden centres, i-site and public facilities, such as libraries.
- Taranaki Daily News