23 May 2017

Whitestone City open

Whitestone City was opened on Sunday 21 May, by Waitaki MP, Jacqui Dean and Waitaki District Mayor, Gary Kircher. The community open day that followed was well received with, 1085 people going through the heritage experience in four hours.

The penny farthing carousel, and Criterion Hotel architect’s projection were among visitors highlights, as well as the interactive nature of the experience. Tourism Waitaki Operations Manager, Wendy Simpson, saying, “It was wonderful to see so many locals enjoying Whitestone City. After all the effort that went into planning and developing the project, it was great to finally see people exploring, and enjoying the experience.”

The heritage experience focuses on local history, with copies of original portraits from the North Otago Early Settlers Association, and some shops in the mini streetscape named after businesses in the District. Many items have been generously donated by locals and all pull together to give visitors and locals a hands-on glimpse into our past.

Residents of the Waitaki District, with proof of address, will only pay $5, and children 17 years old and under are free.


 18 May 2017

Whitestone City set to open Monday 22 May

Whitestone City, the joint heritage experience, between Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust and Tourism Waitaki will open Monday 22 May. With the public invited to an open day to see the new attraction Sunday 21 May.

The tourist attraction was created to be a hands-on and interactive experience, where visitors will be encouraged to be a part of the displays. A penny farthing carousel to ride on, and a school room to receive proper instruction. Boys on one side, girls on the other, and strictly no speaking. There is also an agricultural display, bar room, games to play and for the more refined, a formal Victorian parlour.

Whitestone City doors will be thrown open Sunday 21,and anyone who wants to look through is encouraged to come down, and be a part of the community open day from 12 – 4pm.


16 May 2017

Guest nights down nationally and in the Waitaki

Statistics New Zealand recently released the March 2017 Commercial Accommodation Monitor, which showed a drop in domestic guest nights, and international visitors overtaking domestic visitors as the largest share of the market for the month.

Nationally, guest nights were down 3%, comparing March 2017 with March 2016. Statistics New Zealand reported that the timing of Easter was a major factor, the public holiday weekend fell in March 2016, but in April this year.

In the Waitaki over 42,000 people spent a night in commercial accommodation during March 2017, an 11% drop when compared with March 2016. The biggest drop came from domestic visitors, down 30%, while international visitors rose 20%.

Looking back across the year, ending March 2017, there was an overall drop of 1% when compared with the year ending March 2016. Out of the 410,000 visitors that spent a night during the year, there were 162,000 international visitors, a rise of 14%, and 248,000 domestic visitors, a drop of almost 10%.

Since 2012, there has been a steady increase in guest nights, from just under 300,000 per year, to 418,000 in the year ending January 2017. During these years, there have been periods of sustained growth, and decreases, but the overall trend has seen more visitors staying in the District.


 3 May 2017

Latest accommodation results show continued annual growth for the Waitaki

Recently released data from Statistics New Zealand showed a fall in guest nights in the Waitaki during February 2017. After consistently strong month-on-month growth in 2016, the early months of 2017 have showed a subtle change in the timing of travel as monthly visitor numbers slowed. There was a 6% drop in guest nights in February 2017, with a total of almost 49,000 people spending a night in the District.

A month-to-month comparison of February 2016 and February 2017, show domestic guest nights fell 9%, and international guest nights fell 1.5%. For the year ending February 2017, however, there was a year-end rise of 2%, with over 415,000 guest nights spent in the District. Also for the year ending February 2017, domestic guest nights dropped almost 4%, while international guest nights rose 13%.

Statistics New Zealand reported a drop in guest nights for five out of twelve regions around New Zealand, including Auckland, during February 2017. They also reported a 1.6% drop overall in domestic guest nights, alongside a 19% increase in the average number of New Zealand residents overseas for a short-term trip, not including people visiting friends and family, and is seen as the primary factor in the drop.


5 April 2017

New meetings for District Tourism Strategy

The second round of District Tourism Strategy meetings will be held around the District during April 2017.

  • Omarama – 27th April, 12-1pm. Omarama Community Centre, Chain Hills Highway, Omarama.
  • Palmerston – 28th April, 12-1pm. Palmerston i-SITE, 117 Ronaldsay Street, Palmerston.
  • Oamaru – 28th April, 3-4pm. Waitaki District Council chambers, 20 Thames Street, Oamaru.

These meetings give the opportunity for community members to add to discussions that were held last year, and to help build a picture of what is important to local communities in regards to tourism.


 21 March 2017

New event coordinator for Tourism Waitaki

Tourism Waitaki welcome new event coordinator this week, former Oamaru Farmers Market Manager, Lucianne White.

Mrs White brings a wealth of experience to the role, having managed the farmers market from its infancy to a thriving weekly community focused market, as well as chairing the Harbour Street Jazz and Blues festival Committee, and running her own business specialising in events management and not-for-profit governance and management.

The event coordinator role supports key events such as Victorian Celebration Heritage Week, Harbour Street Jazz and Blues Festival, and Fire & Steam as well as Tourism Waitaki lead events such as the Chinese New Year celebrations held earlier this year.

Thrilled to fill the busy role, Mrs White said, “I’m very proud of the attractions, events and people that make our District the vibrant creative and beautiful place that it is. I can’t wait to contribute my enthusiasm to our events portfolio and work towards making this the most exciting year of events yet.”

Tourism Waitaki General Manager, Jason Gaskill, said, “We are excited to have Lucianne on board, she brings so much experience and enthusiasm to the role.”


 21 March 2017

Year-end rise in bed nights for the Waitaki

Recently released figures from Statistics New Zealand show mixed accommodation results for the Waitaki, with a 13% drop in guest nights spent in the District when comparing December 2016 with December 2015, but a 7% rise across the year ending December 2016.

For the year ending December 2016 there were over 426,000 nights spent in the District, a steady climb from 2011 when there were just under 300,000 guest nights spent in the Waitaki. Both domestic and international guest nights had an annual rise: domestic nights had a modest rise of just over 1%. Guest nights from international visitors rose 19%, now accounting for over 156,000 nights per year. The number of nights’ visitors stayed remained stable, with a slight increase from 1.54 to 1.55 nights spent in the Waitaki across the year.

In December 2016, there were over 49,000 guest nights spent in the District, down 13% on December 2015. Domestic guest nights dropped 22% during this time, although international guest nights rose 8%.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment shows there was an annual spend of $173 million in the District for the 12 months till January 2017. Retail on fuel and automotive products topped the spending with $51 million, followed by food and beverage serving services with $37 million spent. Other areas of spending included retail sales on food and beverages, accommodation, transport and other tourism products.


7 March 2017

New meetings for District Tourism Strategy

Promoting off and shoulder season, transforming the District from a stop-over to a destination, and accommodation were key points from the District Tourism Strategy meetings held last year.

Other points that came out of the meetings last year focused on developing existing strengths in towns around the District as well as increasing the profile of the District, and lengthening the time that visitors are staying in the District.

Tourism Waitaki General Manager, Jason Gaskill, said “These meetings are really important to understanding what’s important to the community. At the last meetings, there was a wide range of views and ideas, and we want to encourage people to come and be a part of shaping this strategy.”

New meetings will be held around the District again, and dates will be announced soon.  This second round of meetings will build on the conversations that were held last year, and help clarify the primary points of emphasis local communities are interesting in seeing form a fundamental piece of the strategy. The meetings provide a mechanism for the community to play an active role in setting the tourism strategy for the coming years.


 7 March 2017

Forrester Laneway Long Lunch with Bevan Smith and Sally Ann Donnelly

A three-hour feast, created by Bevan Smith and hosted by Sally Ann Donnelly, along with their teams from Riverstone Kitchen and the Loan & Merc, will be served from midday, on a long table running down Harbour Street on Saturday 1st April 2017.

The two iconic locals have teamed up to raise funds for the combined Gallery, Museum, Archive development project. This is the first community fundraising event for this project.

Owner and chef of award-winning restaurant Riverstone Kitchen, Bevan Smith said, “Harbour Street in the iconic heritage precinct is made for a long table feast. Atmosphere, character and a great cause to support.”

Limited spaces are available. Tickets are $150 and are on sale now and can be purchased at Riverstone Kitchen, Portside Restaurant Oamaru, Fat Sally’s Pub and Restaurant, the Oamaru i-SITE and online at www.riverstonekitchen.co.nz


 7 March 2017

Harbour St Project progressing

The Harbour Street Project, a joint development between Tourism Waitaki Limited, the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust, and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, is moving closer to completion. Plumbing work to install toilets and to upgrade the connection is currently underway. Good progress is also being made on the vestibule areas, which sits just inside the large wooden doors that face the sea and the street, and which will provide a comfortable and secure entrance.

Other work includes making special uniforms based on what people would have worn in the Victorian era for staff at the heritage experience to wear, and installing the audio-visual equipment for a number of displays.

There should be more noticeable progress in the area as the project moves closer to wrapping up, with a finish date to be released soon.


 22 February 2017

Steady growth for the Waitaki

Recently released accommodation statistics show that the rise in guest nights for the Waitaki were 6% higher than the national rise. Statistics New Zealand reported that for November 2016 there were almost 38,000 guest nights spent in the District, an 11% rise when compared with November 2015.

While there was an overall rise in guest nights when comparing November 2016 with November 2015, there was a drop in guest nights from domestic visitors of 3%, but international guest nights rose by over 33%.

Tourism Waitaki general manager, Jason Gaskill, said, “The steady rise in guest nights is a positive indicator that we are seeing sustained growth in the District.”

For the year ending November 2016, all four of the major monitoring measures rose in the Waitaki. Total guest nights rose almost 11%, with domestic visitors, who make up the greatest share of the market, rising 6%. International guest nights had a more significant increase of 20%, and the length visitors were staying increased slightly from 1.53 to 1.55 nights.


17 February 2017

Harbour Street Project wrapping up soon

The interactive heritage experience being developed in the Victorian Precinct of Oamaru is in the final stages of work and is expected to be open in April 2017. The experience aims to transport guests back in time, making every day perfect for dusting off the three-piece suit and top hat, and where ladies ankles weren’t seen.

Tourism Waitaki and Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust have worked closely to bring the project to life, and Tourism Waitaki General Manager, Jason Gaskill shared his appreciation for the Trust’s drive and motivation to see the best outcomes for visitors to the experience and the area as a whole, saying, “The whole Trust has contributed to making this project a reality, and we recognise the diligent work that they have put into it.”

Completion of the project was delayed from its anticipated opening date in late November 2016 due to unforeseen consenting requirements, and to ensure all aspects of the project were completed with the best outcomes possible.

The project is a joint venture between the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust, and was able to move forward after Tourism Waitaki received a grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and it is hoped that the experience will add to the attractions already available in the area, and give a unique Oamaru experience.

The Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust has been happy to contribute to the project, and is pleased with the adaptive reuse of the Neill Brothers historic building and to the surrounding area. Mark Smith, Operations Manager of the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust said, “The Trust deeply appreciates all the work that Tourism Waitaki team members and contractors have put in to make this project come together. Oamaru owes a great deal to Annabel Berry, Wendy Simpson and Jason Gaskill for their management of this project and the sheer hard work they have put into it. They have overcome a great many obstacles.”

Tourism Waitaki Board chair Mike McElhinney was also quick with his praise of Mr Gaskill and Dr Smith saying, “Without their tireless efforts this project would never have been realised as it is now.”



15 February 2017

Help for endangered Yellow Eyed Penguins

The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony and the Department of Conservation have extended their long-standing working relationship to include a predator trapping and wildlife advocacy program in the Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve to help a small colony of endangered Yellow Eyed Penguins.

The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony will work under the Department of Conservation’s guidelines and will extend the current predator trapping program that is in place at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony from the Bushy Beach area south of Oamaru, north through Boatman’s Harbour to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.

The aim of this predator trapping program is to reduce predation on the penguins as well as eggs and chicks. The future success of the colony relies on the penguins being able to raise their chicks to fledging.

The agreement also includes a public information program which will see two staff members located at Bushy Beach to provide people with information about wildlife in the Reserve, and encouraging people to view returning animals from designated areas, leaving the wildlife to return home without human disturbance.

Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony marine biologist, Dr Philippa Agnew is excited to be working more closely with the Yellow Eyed penguins, and hopes that they can achieve good success there, and said, “to help this colony we need to do what we know works on land, reducing predators and human disturbance. We are really happy that DOC want us to collaborate with them on this important work.”

The Department of Conservation Oamaru and the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony have worked on this collaborative partnership for several years now and we now believe we have got it right. Department of Conservation Oamaru, Community Ranger Andy Powazynski said, “These days the Department relies on good partnerships and collaboration from a variety of entities to help deliver quality conservation and the protection of wildlife. Working with a local, professional and dedicated business such as the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony on this kind of project (predation and advocacy) means they are helping towards the vision of New Zealand being predator free by 2050.

Through the advocacy role and the opening of the magnificent new rehabilitation unit on site, can only help increase the Yellow Eyed colony population in Oamaru and at the same time deliver quality care for either sick, injured or underweight penguins. This is an exciting time for all.”


 8 February 2017

Tourism Waitaki concerned for visitor’s safety on breakwater

There have recently been large numbers of people standing on the breakwater in Oamaru’s harbour, to watch little blue penguins come back from sea in the evening. Tourism Waitaki has no jurisdiction over who can use the breakwater or when, but is concerned for the wellbeing and safety of both people using the area, particularly in low-light conditions, and the welfare of penguins who are being increasingly subjected to behaviour which can disturb them.

The little blue penguins which nest in Oamaru are not domesticated in any way and are easily startled by flash photography and long shadows. Dr Philippa Agnew says that, “flash photography is a real concern, especially when there are large numbers of people taking flash photographs at the same time. The accumulated light from multiple flash photographs can create a reflecting effect off surrounding surfaces, which could lead to the penguins delaying coming back from sea, this in turn can lead to a delay in chicks being fed.”

Well-known little blue penguin colony at Phillip Island, Australia have prohibited all forms of photography during the evening viewing to protect penguins from being startled by flashes and shadows the light creates. Little blue penguins are habitual and can be deterred from returning to an area if they are disturbed often enough, and is something the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony wants to ensure never happens.

As the breakwater is outside of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, staff have no way to control the use of flash photography, people climbing down onto the shore to get closer to the penguins, or patrol the area to ensure safety of visitors who may not understand how dangerous the breakwater can be in some weather conditions.


 1 February 2017

Great season for Oamaru’s penguins and their scientist

Oamaru’s little blue penguins have had a record-breaking season under the watchful care of one of New Zealand’s leading penguin scientists, Dr Philippa Agnew, and her team at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. Many penguin chicks are heavier than usual, one chick weighing 69% more than normal, and there are more penguins coming back from sea at night.

Dr Agnew, a Marine Biologist, who has been at the Colony since 2006, is delighted with the success of the 2016/17 season so far, and some of the unexpected records being set. Many of the usually petite little blues have weighed in around 1500g, a significant gain of half their normal body weight, but the biggest of them all tipped the scales at 1690g.

A record of 24 consecutive nights was also set late last year for the longest stretch of over 200 penguins coming back from sea each night. During this time the highest number of penguins returning from sea in a single night was also recorded, with 308 penguins coming ashore in an hour. During Dr Agnew’s time with the Colony there has also been a rise in the average number of penguins coming back from sea each night, from 89 in 2006 to 108 in 2016.

There are many factors that have led to the success of the little blue penguins in the area but much of it has to do with the work lead by Dr Agnew, including a reduction of human disturbance as much as possible and a continuation of the predator trapping program around the colony. These two factors cause the penguins their greatest stress on land, and much like people, penguins are happiest when their stress levels are reduced and they can freely exhibit their natural behaviours.

Tourism Waitaki General Manager, Jason Gaskill was strong in his praise of Dr Agnew saying, “the Colony simply would not be what it is without her. She is incredibly passionate and dedicated to the little blue penguins as well as other sea birds and wildlife in the area. She is a real asset to us and the community.”


 24 January 2017

Chinese New Year celebration for Oamaru

Oamaru’s Chinese New Year celebration will be held Friday 10 February 2017, in the playground area at Friendly Bay in Oamaru Harbour from 5.30pm to 10.30pm. The family friendly event for both visitors and locals will include international food stalls, Kung Fu demonstrations, a petting zoo for kids, lantern making, face painting and an outdoor movie, Disney’s Mulan, starting at 9.00pm.

February 10 is the final day of Chinese New Year celebrations and is traditionally known as the Lantern Festival. This is the first time Oamaru has had an event to celebrate the Chinese New Year and is hoped that it will be a fun and relaxed event for all.

Brooke Kofoed, Tourism Waitaki Events Coordinator said, “we hope with this event we will be able to involve and share with the community and visitors, whether Chinese or not, about Chinese culture, beliefs and traditions. There is a large Chinese community in Oamaru and surrounding areas and we wanted to bring the community and visitors together to celebrate with them.”


2017 SHOW 4th and 5th February

Join us for this special show, which celebrates 150 years since the first show was held in Palmerston in 1867.

The Committee and volunteers have devised a schedule with echoes of the pioneering spirit. The Hall sections have been renamed Garden and Gallery to reflect this, and include new classes in hunting and shooting, cheese making, and pioneer crafts. However, the old favourites are still there, including the children’s section. Another innovation, as the show is now named East Otago, is competitions in an Eastern Pie and an Eastern Cake, made to a specific recipe.

The Equestrian section also reflects the past with its classes in the Heavy (Draught) Horse section. As well, there will be rides available on carts pulled by these magnificent beasts in full regalia. There are other new classes too, and special ribbons to be won.
We are hoping for a great turnout in the Livestock sections — cattle (stud and herd), and sheep (stud and flock). These sections are for the lifestyle farmer and hobbyist as well as the stud breeder. Donkeys, alpaca, and llama should make a good showing as TB clearance is no longer required for these animals. No doubt fleeces will be well represented, as in previous years.

Entertainment also reflects yesteryear with highland dancing, the Otago Axemen, and the Caledonian Games, as well as all the usual fun of the fair.

So make a date to be at this fantastic show or, better still, enter events — so much more

Contacts are:
Garden and Gallery email Jenny on gardenandgallery@gmail.com
Trade sites email Keren on trades@palmerstonwaihemo.nz
Livestock and Equestrian — please check out showdayonline.com

See you on 4th and 5th February at the Palmerston Showgrounds in Gilligan Street — just
follow the signs.

Maria Barta, Secretary, Palmerston & Waihemo A&P Assn. Inc.
636 Palmerston-Dunback Rd, RD 3, Palmerston 9483
Ph: (03) 465-0893 Mob: 021 211 1111



 16 December 2016

Midge Marsden Band headline for Harbour Street Jazz & Blues Festival

The Midge Marsden Band will be the headline act for next years’ Harbour Street Jazz & Blues Festival, running over Otago Anniversary weekend from 17 - 19 March 2017 in Oamaru.

The Midge Marsden Band, along with opening act Edwina Thorne and the Bill Martin Trio will be playing Sunday 19 March at the Loan and Merc. Festival organiser, Julie Barclay, described Midge as a legend in New Zealand. “His career spans 50 odd years and in 2006 Midge was made a member of NZ Order of Merit for his services to music and this is only Midge, the rest of his band are just as talented.”

Tickets are on sale now from Mainstreet Music in Oamaru, or through Ticket Direct, www.ticketdirect.co.nz. For more information on the Harbour Street Jazz and Blues Festival go to www.harbourstreetjazz.com


15 December 2016

Little Blues are hatching

Oamaru’s little blue penguins haven’t taken any notice of their new-found stardom and are happily getting on with life. So far 295 eggs have been laid at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony this season. 203 have chicks have hatched, 15 have already fledged, 42 eggs are being incubated, and there is still time for penguins which laid eggs early in the season to hatch another pair of chicks.

Little blue penguins usually lay two eggs at a time, then incubate them for 35 days. For the first 2 – 3 weeks of the chick’s life mum and dad take turns staying on their nest to keep the chicks warm, while their mate goes to sea for the day to feed and bring back food for the chicks.

After the first three weeks, chicks can keep themselves warm and both parents are able to go to sea. At this point of the season large numbers of penguins can be seen coming ashore in the evening; late last month 301 penguins were recorded coming back from sea in one evening.

Once the chicks have fledged the adults begin to moult in early January each year. This leaves them stuck on shore for two weeks while their new feathers grow out, which gives them their waterproof coating.

Other smaller colonies in the area are also doing well, and the number of penguins using the underpass that was installed in September is increasing with up to 50 penguins each night using it.


 15 December 2016

NZ’s first staged ultra run

New Zealand’s first staged ultra run, the Back Country Cuisine Alps 2 Ocean Ultra, will happen from 23 February to 3 March 2018 on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. Runners will start at the foot of Mt Cook and run the full 301km of the Trail to Oamaru.

The race will be divided into stages, with different lengths run each day. The shortest day will see runners cover 27km, and the longest, 85 km. The race organisers say their goal is to, “create a run environment where finishing is more important than results.” 

There will be three options for the race, unsupported, where competitors will carry everything they need for the race including bedding and food. The supported option will allow the competitors to only carry the compulsory items for the day, with everything else transported to the end of each stage for them. Runners can also choose to complete the race as a team, and this means real teamwork as no supported option can be taken.

One hundred runners are expected to participate in the event, and all profits from the race will be donated, being split between helping with maintenance on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail and a children’s charity, aimed at helping children reach their potential. 

Entries to the race are open, leaving plenty of time to train for the race. The race organisers said, “the run will not be easy and you will be pushed to your limit. You will get tired, sore, hungry and may even get the odd blister. But at the same time, I guarantee when you get back home and have recovered, you will have loved it.”

For more information go to www.alps2ocean.ultra.com



Contact person:

Michael Sandri

Race Director

0272 285 158

 12 December 2016

Twilight Christmas market in Oamaru 

Oamaru Farmers Market and Harbour Street businesses will be holding a special twilight Christmas event on Friday 23 December 2016 from 4.30 – 7pm, to give locals and visitors alike the chance to pick up unique last-minute gifts and to stock up on local produce.

The market and Harbour Street will be filled with music, food, shopping, Santa, rides from Rudolf for the younger kids and lots of family fun including Rudolf’s hoof print trail – leading kids around Harbour Street to discover hidden wonders. Pony rides for older children will be taking donations for Riding for the Disabled, and Orwell Street Church will be on the community stall taking donations for their Community Christmas day dinner.

Market Manager, Lucianne White, said that they aim to bring an interactive experience for the whole family, “it will be a night of festivities, food, fabulous shopping and of course really embracing the Christmas spirit of giving with a local, seasonal and community spin.”


28 November 2016 

New Guardian for Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail 

Mt Cook Alpine Salmon have recently taken on the guardianship of the first section on the alternative start point on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. Beginning at Lake Tekapo the track will take cyclists past one of Mt Cook Alpine Salmon's farms to their famous shop on the shores of Lake Pukaki.   

Rick Ramsay, compliance and assets manager for Mt Cook Alpine Salmon, said that cyclists have always been associated with the salmon farms, so being a part of the cycle trail was a natural connection. The connection was so strong that the design for the bike stands, that sit outside their shop at Pukaki Dam, were built by the farm maintenance staff using salmon raft parts. 

Mr Ramsay, who floated the original idea for the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail in 2009, said while he was working on the farm he would see cyclists heading south toward Oamaru, and thought it would be great to have a proper trail that would take cyclists, who were already avoiding the state highway in favour of the more scenic and quieter route by the canal, on a stunning meander through the back country. 

David Cole, CEO of Mt Cook Alpine Salmon said, "We are delighted to be a trail guardian for A2O, sponsoring the section from the Tekapo canal that traces around the edge of Lake Pukaki to our famous salmon shop by the side of the lake. We plan to be active supporters of this amazing new scenic cycle trail by encouraging many of our staff to test their bikes on the trail this summer." 

Jason Menard, Alps 2 Ocean Marketing & Sales Officer said “Mt Cook Alpine Salmon are a perfect fit for trail guardianship of this section. It ties together so nicely the connection from the salmon farm through to the retail shop at Lake Pukaki. There are several restaurants along the trail that serve Mt Cook Alpine Salmon products, so it’s really interesting for cyclists to see where their meal has come from.” 



23 November 2016

NZ Silver Fern Rally stopping in Oamaru

Oamaru will host the NZ Silver Fern Rally overnight on Monday 28 November 2016. Cars are due to arrive between 4.30 and 8.00pm, going straight to their service area located in the Historic Precinct carpark on the Corner of Tyne and Wansbeck Streets.

James Cowan, Commercial Manager Ultimate Rally Group, said that the rest period spent in Oamaru is an interactive and hands on part of the rally where the public can come view the cars, chat with the drivers, and see the cars being worked on before they are parked overnight on Thames Street.

Tuesday will see the rally take on Oamaru to Ranfurly, with the first stage in Maheno. The cars are expected to leave Oamaru between 7.30 and 10.30am from Thames Street, where the public is welcome to come and see them off. Maps of each stage can be viewed on the NZ Silver Fern Rally website, silverfernrally.co.nz

The NZ Silver Fern Rally, which is held every two years around different parts of the country, will this year start and end in Christchurch, taking in Oamaru, Dunedin, Gore and Timaru on the way round.

The rally which began in April 1969, attracts international drivers from around the world and shows off classic rear-wheel drive rally cars. Mr Cowan said, “all the cars have history attached, some having been rallied in different parts of the world.” He also commented that the rally is an endurance race, a real test of man and machine.


  18 November 2016

Positive accommodation results for the Waitaki

The recently released accommodation survey for September 2016 from Statistics New Zealand, reported a continuing increase in guest nights spent in the Waitaki District across the three major indicators, with rises in overall guest nights, domestic and international guest nights.

There was an overall increase in guest nights of just under 12% comparing September 2016 with September 2015, representing a total of 22,983 guest nights spent in the District in September 2016. Of this there were 7,628 nights spent by international visitors which represents an increase of almost 17%, and 33% of all guest nights spent in the District during September 2016.

Domestic guest nights rose by 9% with a total of 15,354 guest nights, and the average length of stay increased slightly from 1.50 nights to 1.61 nights.

For the month of September 2016 there were a total of 2,633,000 guest nights spent across New Zealand, an increase of 6% or an extra 158,000 nights.

Comparing the year ending September 2016 with the year ending September 2015, guest nights rose by just under 12%, with a total of 427,678 nights spent in the District. International guest nights accounted for 149,524 of the total, an increase of 20%, and domestic guest nights which accounted for 278,154 which was an increase of 7%. There was a slight decrease in the length of stay measure, dropping from 1.55 nights to 1.52 nights

Quick facts:

Comparing September 2016 with September 2015

  • Guest nights rose 11.8% with 22,983 guest nights
  • International guest nights rose 16.8% to 7,628 guest nights
  • International guest nights accounted for 33% of all guest nights
  • Domestic guest nights rose 9.5% to 15,354
  • Average length of stay rose from 1.5 to 1.61 nights
  • Total 2,633,000 guest nights over New Zealand

Comparing year ending September 2016 with September 2015

  • Guest nights rose 11.9% to 427,678
  • International guest nights rose 20.5% to 149,524
  • Domestic guest nights rose 7.7% to 278,154
  • Average length of stay dropped from 1.55 to 1.52 nights


16 November 2016

Local penguins become internet stars

A video of Oamaru’s little blue penguins using the recently installed underpass, which takes the penguins safely from the harbour, under Waterfront Road to just outside the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, has been shared on Facebook over 3,000 times, viewed over 200,000 times, and has come up in people's newsfeed over 500,000 times, attracting almost 700 comments and over 6,000 likes.

People have been smitten by the little blues with comments such as adorable and admiration for their little waddle as they make their way home through the underpass. Many of comments have had a more serious side, praising the conservation efforts to protect the penguins and recognising the need for more of these globally. As people have shared the video, major international news outlets picked up the story and it has reached as far afield as CNN, the Guardian, NBC and the ABC.

The underpass was installed in September this year to give the penguins a safer route back to their nests, allowing them to avoid having to cross the road. The penguins are habitual and will follow the same route home regardless of how busy the traffic is, so this gives them a little extra protection.


Quick Facts:

From a combined total from Oamaru & Waitaki District and Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony's Facebook pages. These figures are correct as of 15/11/16.

Reach (seen in people's newsfeed): 508,000
Views: 215,000
Shares: 3,653
Likes: 6,100
Comments: 694


 16 November 2016

Public District Tourism Strategy meetings to be held

Tourism Waitaki will be holding a series of meetings next week in Kurow, Palmerston and Oamaru to give the community an opportunity to be involved in discussions regarding the District’s tourism strategy.

The public are encouraged to attend the meetings to be held 21 November 2016 at the Palmerston i-SITE, 23 November 2016 at the Kurow Hotel, and 25 November 2016 at the Oamaru Opera House. There will be two meeting times, 12pm and 5.30pm, at each venue to give the widest opportunity for the public to be able to attend.

The purpose of the meetings are to encourage public discussion about tourism in general, as well as comments and suggestions from the community on what the tourism strategy could and should look like.

Tourism Waitaki General Manager, Jason Gaskill, said, “we hope the community will be able to come along and share what ideas they have. We are really open to suggestions from the public and look forward to what they bring to the discussion."

If you would like to attend you can rspv by completing the online form found at https://form.jotform.co/63136931705859, and for further information please contact Sara Matchett at admin@tourismwaitaki.co.nz


 16 November 2016

Heritage Week is here

Want to be part of Victorian Heritage Celebration Week? There are still tickets available to some of the great shows on offer. Heritage Week starts this Wednesday 16 November and runs through till Sunday 20 November, offering five days of hoop skirts, top hats and a whole lot of fun.

Go to www.vhc.co.nz to see the full list of events, shows and activities you can participate in during the week, book you tickets online or head to the Oamaru i-SITE.

A great aspect of Heritage week is that is that there is something for everyone, whether you enjoy comedy, garden parties, music, theatre, vintage machinery, or bicycle racing. Events for all ages and interests for locals and travelers – Oamaru’s Victorian Heritage Celebration week is one not to be missed.


 1 November 2016

Victorian Heritage Celebration Week almost here

Victorian Heritage Celebrating Week, running from Wednesday 16 – Sunday 20 November 2016, celebrates all things Victoriana. Bring out the hoop skirts and top hats, it’s time to look dapper in your three-piece suit and experience five days full of entertainment, fun and dressing up. There are plays and shows, a Ball, bicycle championship, steam train trips, a fete for the whole family and plenty to learn about for those who want more than just fun. Oamaru’s Victorian Heritage Celebration week is one not to be missed.

Tickets to the various events went on sale October 1 and are selling fast. Heritage Week has multiple events and activities scheduled for each day of the week and some require booking, so get in fast. The full list of events and activities can be viewed on the Victorian Heritage Celebrations website, www.vhc.co.nz

This year’s theme is ‘Medicine in the Victorian Era,’ and has been taken to heart by the Forrester Gallery who will be running an Art and Anatomy exhibition during the week, and will be displaying a large medically-themed sculpture and exhibits from the W.D Trotter Anatomy Museum. The Opera House is also getting in on the celebrations, the café and bar area is to be transformed into a dispensary, and the prescription for your hunger pangs can be filled by taking a seat and sampling the sweets and savouries on offer.

A fresh addition to the entertainment is sure to knock the garters and braces off the audience – Don’t miss hypnotist extraordinaire Guy Cater on Friday 18 November 2016. Guy has performed all over the world and previous spectacles have seen volunteers meeting aliens, thinking they have won Lotto, becoming Elvis, and having a whole lot of fun looking through x-ray glasses. He will have you in fits of laughter as he quashes the doubts of any sceptics out there - the question is who will be brave enough to volunteer?

The Oamaru Opera House, Clark's Flour Mill and Totara Estate have joined together to offer school students from the greater Waitaki and Timaru District's a hands on learning experience based on this year’s theme. Students will get to choose from a theatrical experience "Lane of Marvels' at the Opera House, stepping back in time at Clark's Flour Mill or experiencing life on the farm in the Victorian era at Totara Estate.

Schools and community groups are also encouraged to take part in the Whitestone Contracting Grand Street Parade on Saturday 19 November 2016, there will be cash and prizes for the best school and community group floats or just come along and watch.

For more information, please contact Brooke Kofoed on (03) 434-1655 or email events@tourismwaitaki.co.nz, or visit www.vhc.co.nz for full programme details.


13 October 2016 

New website shows off Waitaki District

The recently launched new website from Tourism Waitaki aims to provide an easier to use experience, a place where tourists can shape their itineraries, and to give tourism operators greater opportunity to show their businesses to potential visitors to the area.

Among the changes is the ability to explore the District by location. The Waitkai Valley, Oamaru and Coastal North Otago each have beautiful pages which showcase what each unique area has to offer, including the towns and key things to do and see, better representing the District as a whole.

Visitors will now be able to book accommodation directly from the site, check places to eat and things to do. It was a priority to make the site as user friendly as possible on both computers and mobile devices, which will help encourage visitors to use the website as they travel through the District, getting the most out of their stay. Online Media Specialist, Sara Matchett said,“It’s really important that people have the ability to navigate a user-friendly site on whichever device they choose. For many visitors, mobiles are constant travel companions, so to be able to book a place to stay, check activities and find great places to eat as needed is a very important function.”

It is also hoped that the new website will be a help to tourism operators within the District. Tourism Waitaki has been encouraging operators to create a listing on Tourism New Zealand's website, which potentially puts their business in front of over 24 million prospective visitors each year. Due to integration with Tourism New Zealand’s website, operators who create listings there have the ability to be pulled directly onto Tourism Waitaki's new website. This means that operators only need to manage content in one place to have a consistent message delivered to visitors across two key websites.

A more interactive events section has also been created, where event organisers will now be able to add their own events, and be able to use a shared calendar to avoid event clashes.

“The new website is a really important piece of promotional infrastructure," said Tourism Waitaki General Manager, Jason Gaskill. "It allows us – both Tourism Waitaki and the district tourism industry – to speak directly to visitors, invite them to the District, offer them something special, and to be able to show them what we have to offer when they are still thinking about their trip, while they are making decisions, before they even leave their homes.” 


13 October 2016

Guest nights still rising for the Waitaki

Another period of growth for the Waitaki District was recorded in the latest accommodation statistics that were released this week from Statistics New Zealand. Comparing August 2016 with August 2015 there was a 7% rise in guest nights spent in the Waitaki District, with a total of 19,420 guest nights.

During the same period international guest nights increased by 22.5%, with a total of 6,180 international guest nights, which accounted for 31% of all guest nights spent in the District during August 2016.

The average length visitors stayed also had a slight increase rising from 1.49 in August 2015 to 1.68 nights in August 2016, and of all the accommodation groups monitored, motels had the largest increase of guest nights.

Overall for the year ending August 2016, guest nights across the District rose by 11%, with a total of 425,244 guest nights spent in the Waitaki. International guest nights rose by 20.5% with a total of 148,428 international guest nights, and domestic guest nights also rose by just over 7% with a total of 276,816 guest nights. The average length of stay decreased slightly from 1.55 nights to 1.52 nights across the year.


4 November 2016

Penguin statue on the move

The large penguin statue that had been located outside of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony moved to its’ new home yesterday, on the corner of Waterfront Road and Marine Parade, as part of the upgrade work to the attraction.

Waitaki District Mayor, Gary Kircher, says he is in “total agreement” with the move and has long been a proponent of having the statue moved to the new location.

It is hoped that by moving the almost seven foot statue to a more public area, it will make it more a piece of public art that can be enjoyed by visitors and locals alike going to the area. Tourism Waitaki General Manager, Jason Gaskill said, “just like the harbour and the little blue penguins, the statue is really unique and while we were upgrading the Colony we wanted to move the statue to a more prominent location. We hope to see lots of people stopping to take photos by it and it becoming a feature of the area.”



3 October 2016

First East Otago Field Days shaping up to be a success

The inaugural Field Days event, to be held on 12-13 October, is an Agricultural and Equestrian Business Field Days and is building on the increased interest and growth in the agricultural sector and the Palmerston and Waihemo A&P show.

East Otago Field Days secretary Maria Barta, said, “The regional growth in agriculture, tourism, lifestyle, and equestrian pursuits, and encouragement from various business interests, has resulted in the development of this event, dedicated to the growth of our rural sector — machinery, technology, services and ideas.”

With 86 exhibitors on board and that number still increasing, and the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon. Nathan Guy attending, the response to the Field Days has, “exceeded all their expectations,” said Mrs Barta.

The Field Days will include demonstrations of equipment, products and prize stock, and there will be cooking demonstrations, country fashions on show, along with food and refreshments.

Lying half way between Christchurch and Invercargill, the organisers feel that Palmerston is a great place to hold the event, saying, “it is on State Highway 1 right in the middle of the regions and also at the junction of SH85, the famous Pigroot, inland to the Maniototo and Central Otago. This makes our attractive sheltered Showground venue highly accessible to a substantial number of farming and rural industries.”

Entry is $5 (children under 16 free) and will be held at the Palmerston Show Grounds, (Palmerston Recreation Reserve on Google Earth) 31Gilligan Street, Palmerston, 9am-5pm.


 16 September 2016

Positive growth in tourism sector across Waitaki District

Tourist numbers are higher, people are staying in the District longer, higher numbers of international visitors are making their way to the District and the Blue Penguin Colony just recorded its busiest winter season ever.

The latest figures from Statistics New Zealand show that the year ending July 2016 was another one of growth for the Waitaki District. There was a 19% increase in international guest nights compared with July 2015, and the total number of nights spent in the District by visitors increased by 11%.

The Blue Penguin Colony just recorded a 22% increase in winter visitors numbers, its highest ever for a winter season, with a 60% increase in visitors coming without being part of a tour group.  

Tourism Waitaki Limited General Manager, Jason Gaskill, said, “Things are going really well. Tourist numbers for the beginning of this year are higher than previous years.“We’ve been working really hard on promoting the great things in our District to a wide audience – international and domestic alike. And more and more are coming and staying, and doing more things.” Mr Gaskill added that they are working closely with other regional Councils and Tourism Organisations to create more inviting reasons to stay in the area longer.

Tourism Waitaki has put in a lot of effort recently promoting the Waitaki District in China, Christchurch, Singapore, Auckland, Taiwan and Wellington. The hard work will continue with promoting the Alps2Ocean cycle trail, specifically, and attendance at the Chinese Consumer Show in Auckland later this year to sell the wider District alongside a number of operators.  Further activities have been planned to build on interest in Japan and Korea, where Steampunk and Heritage experiences are rising in popularity and the Waitaki is becoming a destination of choice for many agents.

Mr Gaskill said, “it’s really important we don’t rest on our laurels just because things are going well. We need to keep pushing forward.  We have a great District with lots to offer and we want to make sure everyone knows about it.”


 16 September 2016

Work on blue penguin crossing started

Work to install an underpass beneath Waterfront Road began this week in an effort to make it safer for Blue Penguins to cross back and forth between Oamaru’s Blue Penguin Colony and the Harbour.

The first day was successful as crews worked to locate existing cables and pipes, and began hydrovaccing to clear the channel where the pipe will be laid. Progress continues, as power is being shifted and further site preparations are undertaken.  An active traffic management plan is in place, but access to the Colony and other amenities in the area remains open as usual. The project is expected to be complete within the next three weeks.

The project, which is part of a wider upgrade at the Colony, is designed to separate traffic, visitors, and penguins. The underpass will provide a safer road crossing for the penguins, and hopefully encourage visitors to remain off the road and keep traffic moving without interruption. This action has been taken in conjunction with staff increases in the area to assist visitors and the implementation of a traffic management plan for Colony viewing during peak season to ensure safe vehicle movements.

Colony General Manager, Jason Gaskill, says “the growth in both visitor numbers and penguin numbers at the Colony is great, and provides a wonderful experience.  This project, possibly a national first for this type of wildlife management tool, is really designed to allow penguins, traffic, and visitors to comfortably interact without risk. And we are really excited to have it completed, and want to thank all those organisations that have and continue to support the activity – many of them at their own cost. It is truly a community project that could not have happened without their generous support and enthusiasm.”


16 September 2016

Waitaki District promoted as a convention destination

An annual exhibition bringing together professional event managers and conference organisers was attended by Oamaru Convention Bureau, to promote Waitaki District as a convention destination.

It is the third year the group have attended the exhibition, Convene South in Christchurch, and has been very beneficial to developing business relationships. OCB and industry representatives were able to meet with many organisations that were considering or planning on hosting their conventions in the District. Tourism Waitaki Events Coordinator, Brooke Kofoed, said there is already huge interest in Steampunk, Oamaru Blue Penguins and the Victorian Heritage area from buyers all over New Zealand.  Along with that, it is recognised that Oamaru boasts unique venues, award winning restaurants and many attractions and activities.

This years’ exhibition could lead to conferences being held at the Oamaru Opera House in the coming years, and the potential for companies to arrange incentive travel packages, annual functions and awards dinners here in Oamaru. This is key to the District’s strategic am of increasing the time visitors spend in the District, and recent successes in attracting and hosting conferences is encouraging. 


16 September 2016

Exciting growth at Oamaru’s Blue Penguin Colony

A 22% increase during June, July and August make it the busiest winter season ever for Oamaru’s Blue Penguin Colony. A big increase was also recorded in international visitors, and the building work to upgrade the facility is almost complete.

The winter season is usually the quietest time for the Colony so it was pleasing to see such a big increase which was helped, in part, by a 60% increase in free independent travelers; visitors who come without being part of a tour group.

The rise in international visitors to the Waitaki District coupled with the expanding reputation of the Colony internationally has seen more international visitors than ever before stopping at the Colony, visitors from Asia increased 6%, North and South America increased 18%, Australia and the South Pacific increased 13% and visitors from Europe increased 6%.

Wendy Simpson, Operations Manager Tourism Waitaki, said, “it has been an exciting winter season with not only an increase in people coming to see the little blue penguins, but after the storms of last winter when the penguins opted to stay at sea, we have had good numbers of penguins arriving each evening to the colony as well. They are amazing little creatures and it’s one of the few places in the world you get to see them in a natural environment.”

It is hoped that the building work for the new day viewing area, which is due to be finished before Christmas, will allow a better viewing experience when it is hardest to see them.


2 September 2016

Harbour Street set to come alive

Work on the Harbour Street Project that will bring Oamaru’s Victorian past to life, is well underway and is due to open mid-November. The joint project between Tourism Waitaki and the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust will see an area of Harbour Street in Oamaru’s Victorian precinct transformed back to its Victorian heyday.

“The Harbour Street project will provide an interactive, educational and creative exhibition that brings Colonial Oamaru to life,” says Project Manager, Annabel Berry, Project Manager. Each area of the permanent exhibition will give visitors a view into Victorian life, from dressing and proper manners to playing games, and going to school.

The project is meant to be a hands on experience with live and interactive displays allowing visitors to immerse themselves in Victorian life.

Once open it is expected that the experience for visitors will begin as soon as they arrive at the reception, here they will be given their travel documents and passport that will allow them to enter another era. Visitors will be invited to try on Victorian era clothing and will get to learn about the mannerisms of the day before moving to the feature on games which they can play and try the penny farthing carousel.

A model school is also being created to give an authentic glimpse into what it would have been like to have been taught during that time, and a horse and cart experience will show our agricultural past.

The whole project is set to be fun, entertaining and educational. Celebrating Oamaru, the people, architecture and our heritage both in the Victorian precinct and further into the District.

Oamaru White Civic Trust’s Operations Manager Dr Mark Smith said “I am delighted. The Trust and many contractors have done an outstanding job of making the building ready. The Project team are going great guns getting the attraction ready. I am looking forward to seeing this happen. This is a great opportunity for tourism in Oamaru, and an opportunity for the whole Victorian Precinct.”

Tourism Waitaki General Manager, Jason Gaskill said, “Feedback from agents and potential visitors has been very positive and we are looking forward to the opening in mid-November.”


2 September 2016

International guest nights up dramatically for the Waitaki

Positive results for the Waitaki District with Statistics New Zealand reporting international guest nights across the District were up by over 50% in June 2016 over the same period last year.

The number of nights visitors stayed in the District increased overall by almost 24%, with a total of 16,279 guest nights spent in the District in June this year. Domestic visitors were still the highest contributor with 10,644 guest nights, rising by over 13%, and international guest nights increased to 5,634.

The positive growth continued, with the length guests were staying rising by almost 7% to 1.54 nights.

This increase reflects an upward trend that has been seen all year, and is a continuation of growth that began back in 2011. In the year ending June 2016 a total of 423,827 guest nights were spent in the District, an increase of over 10% compared with the previous year, just under the national growth rate of 5.8%. The number of nights international guests stayed also rose to just under 20% with 147,161 guest nights.

Tourism Waitaki General Manager, Jason Gaskill said, “Interest in the Waitaki is definitely on the increase, both from New Zealand travelers and international visitors.  The work of Tourism Waitaki staff and a number of operators throughout the District over the last 3 – 5 years has solidified our reputation as a comfortable, convenient, unique place to stop.  The increase in numbers, particularly in domestic visitors, is encouraging and is the result of all that hard work, both within New Zealand and overseas.”


2 September 2016

New signs for Alps 2 Ocean

New distance markers have been installed on the Duntroon to Oamaru section of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail by guardians Whitestone Cheese.

Whitestone Cheese, who have been guardians of section 8 since August 2015, wanted to help cyclists better navigate the trail. The new signs list landmarks in the area like Elephant Rocks and Island Cliffs, while giving distances to the next landmark. Jason Menard, Alps 2 Ocean Sales and Marketing Manager, said “The new km signs are very handy, it’s going to make finding your way along the trail and locating distances on the maps much easier.”

Simon Berry, CEO Whitestone Cheese said, “the Alps 2 Ocean is a pivotal economic development project for our region, Whitestone Cheese is therefore a proud supporter of this venture.”

The Duntroon to Oamaru section of the trail sees cyclists cut through beautiful North Otago farmland, where Whitestone Cheese proudly receives milk for some of their local cheeses and butter.

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail are seeking expressions of interest for trail guardians. If you are interested you can contact Jason Menard at marketing@alps2ocean.com, or call 027 702 1213. 


2 September 2016

New staff at Tourism Waitaki excited to be part of promoting our District

Exciting times ahead as Tourism Waitaki welcomes four new staff members tasked with building visitor numbers and encouraging them to stay longer in the district.

New Events Coordinator will see Brooke Kofoed running major district events including Oamaru Fire and Steam, the Arts Festival and Heritage Celebrations. “Oamaru and the Waitaki district has so much to offer tourists,” Ms Kofoed said, “and I am proud to showcase our stunning architecture, strong heritage and natural beauty to the rest of the world. Having worked in local hospitality for the past 10 years, I have watched our district develop and grow into a truly unique tourist destination, which is why I am excited to be able to promote my hometown to others and be part of the team at Tourism Waitaki.”

Sara Matchett has taken on the fast-paced role of Online Media Specialist and will be at the front of promoting the District online and through social media. As a local, she’s proud of what the District has to offer, saying, “Oamaru and the Waitaki have a heck of a lot to be proud of and I’m really excited to be a part of the team working to promote and showcase this to visitors.”

The team of Tingting Yin and Lu Jiang have filled the role of Asian Marketing Specialists. Ms Yin will be focusing on building trade relationships and expanding Tourism Waitaki’s agent network throughout China. Ms Yin is enjoying working in the Districts, saying, “I like this historic town, including the beautiful scenery, lovely penguins, and friendly locals.”

Ms Jiang, will be concentrating on the rest of Asia including, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan, and continuing to work on increasing Free Independent Travelers to the District. Jiang has settled into life in Oamaru saying, “everyone is nice, considerate and helpful. I really want to promote this town and our district to more people.”



Guest nights still rising for the Waitaki