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Kiwi businesses benefitting from growth in Te Araroa walker numbers


The growing number of walkers exploring the national Te Araroa trail is helping to sustain many of the businesses and small communities along its length.

The 3,000km walking trail passes through more than 20 towns and cities as it winds its way from Cape Reinga to Bluff. More than 1,100 people walked the full length of the trail over the 2018/2019 walking season and many thousands more explored individual sections.

Te Araroa chief executive Mark Weatherall says the average through-walker spent between $7,000 and $10,000 during their three- to five-month journey, and millions more was spent by the tens of thousands of other walkers who hiked sections of the trail throughout the year. "The volunteers who have worked for decades to create Te Araroa would be delighted to see so many people getting outdoors, connecting with the environment, and breathing new life into businesses and rural communities along the way."

Pakiri Beach Holiday Park manager Rachel Macfarlane says her business was one of many in Northland that benefited from people walking the trail. More than 200 walkers had overnighted at the holiday park on the Matakana Coast this season, making a positive contribution to her business and others.

"It’s really cool when they come through because a lot of them slot in around the traditional busy season. Those heading south often arrive in spring and many the walkers walking north arrive in autumn."

Many walkers bought supplies from the shop at Pakiri Beach Holiday Park before continuing their journey, and the diversity of visitors from overseas and other parts of New Zealand created a lot of energy and goodwill, she said.

Another of the many businesses benefiting from the trail is BeSpoke Bike Tours, based in Tekapo. Some trail walkers decide to cycle the Alps 2 Ocean section of the trail between Tekapo and Lake Ohau, and many that do so hire their bikes from BeSpoke Bike Tours. Owner Annie O’Sullivan says trail walkers were a diverse group and some of them enjoyed the variety of trying a different mode of transport after walking for weeks. "This was our first year in business and the impact of trail walkers was very unexpected. Te Araroa walkers made up the bulk of my business this year – probably around 70 per cent."

The popularity meant BeSpoke Bike Tours would purchase more bikes and expand its operation for the year ahead, she says.

Many local authorities are also positive about the trail’s impact. Palmerston North City Council leisure assets officer Brian Way says Te Araroa walkers had been "very visible" in Palmerston North over the past year, particularly along the Manawatu River Pathway and in the town square.

"Te Araroa helps put Palmerston North on the tourist map. Visiting walkers provide an opportunity for locals to meet people from other countries and Te Araroa walkers all stay somewhere and have to eat, so our supermarkets, restaurants, outdoor stores, and accommodation providers all benefit," he says.

Mark says the economic benefits provided by trail walkers were just one facet of what Te Araroa was contributing to New Zealand. It also provided physical and mental health benefits for walkers, built a passion for the outdoors among children and young people, and connected Kiwis and others walking the trail with the people and landscapes that make up New Zealand.

He says the challenge for the Trust in future was ensuring the growing number of visitors were managed for the benefit of trail walkers, as well as the environment, businesses and many communities it touched.

"We know the trail’s popularity places pressure on infrastructure, so one of our major focuses in future will be on working with local and central government agencies, iwi, private landholders and others to ensure future growth in walker numbers is managed effectively."

Mark says Te Araroa Trust was working on a new strategy that would prioritise the trail walking experience, along with the sustainability of the trail and the environments and communities that support it. That strategy would be available on the Trust’s website in the coming weeks.


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