We have a rich history on the Coromandel and here in Mercury Bay in particular.
I’m an enthusiastic supporter of any and every opportunity to showcase our local heritage.
It was an absolute privilege to take part in some of the many events that surrounded the recent HMS Buffalo Homecoming Week. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank everyone involved in making it the fantastic success it was for our entire community.
I hope we will continue to focus many future events around our rich and colourful past. Celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook arriving here in Mercury Bay will take place in November 2019. This will be another fantastic opportunity for our community and I know plans are already well underway.
We all know how much tourism matters to the local economy of Mercury Bay and the Coromandel. Our spectacular scenery, world-class food and wine, and skilled tourism operators help bring many thousands of guests each year. One of our annual flagship events is September’s Whitianga Scallop Festival. I am looking forward to this year’s event and I know it will be another big weekend for Whitianga.
There is no doubt at all about the tough times the dairy sector is facing at present. Things will get better and there will be an upturn, but for now our dairy farmers and those businesses that provide support services to the sector are facing working through a very difficult trading environment. Elsewhere however, other parts of our economy are booming.
When the Global Financial Crisis occurred in 2008 it was the tourism sector that took the biggest hit. But now it is that sector which is thriving thanks in part to a lower New Zealand dollar and a much stronger world economy. Soon New Zealand will host our three millionth visitor in just 12 months. Our fast growing tourism sector is destined to become the number one export earner ahead of dairy. We have been experiencing 7% growth in visitors despite the strong dollar and now with a lower dollar, coming to New Zealand will be even more attractive to overseas visitors.
The other good news is that tourism benefits are spreading outside the main centres and into areas like the Coromandel. People are staying longer and they are spending more. It’s a continuing trend. Tourism directly employs 94,100 people or 4.7% of our nationwide workforce.
The challenge for us is to make sure the Coromandel and Mercury Bay continues to be a welcoming and obvious destination for tourists in greater numbers than we have ever experienced before. The opportunity is ours for the taking and I know we are ready to accept the challenge.