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Garden festival visitors stay longer, spend more

Visitors from afar and joyous events were integral to the success of the 30th Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular, says festival manager Leigh Gatward-Cook.

“Travelling visitors to the 2017 festival stayed longer, spent more money and visited more gardens than the visitors in 2016,” she says, referring to the just-released Berl, economic impact report.

This year’s annual festival, which ran from October 27 to November 5, attracted 3487 visitors to the region and of those, 42 per cent were here for the first time. Statistics show that 69 per cent of those who attended the festival were from outside Taranaki.

“One-third of the visitors were from Auckland, and another third were from Wellington and the Waikato. There were tours from Australia, one from Canada and several people from the United States.”

The Berl report shows there were 13,736 visitor nights and $5.1 million in new spending during the festival. The event also generated $2.5 million in gross domestic product in Taranaki, and the festival’s impact equated to supporting 44 full-time jobs for one year in the region.

Gatward-Cook says gardens in south Taranaki recorded excellent visitor numbers, as did Pukeiti, but the property that attracted the highest amount – about 2000 – was Waiongana Gardens at Sentry Hill.

All up, there were 50,915 visits to festival gardens, which was a great outcome, especially considering the poor weather beforehand. “It was wet for about nine months leading up to the festival. But it was pretty nice once everyone got here.”

The festival events were also well attended.

Tim Gruchy’s “Radiant Garden”, which was projected on to the TAFT building every evening of the festival was the most popular. Supported by the TSB Community Trust, this digital artwork was “stunning and uplifting”, Gatward-Cook says.

One of the big hits of the festival was the sold-out Mitre 10 Frida Floral Fiesta. “It was really joyous. It was a night of flamboyant colour, flowers, day of the dead face painting and dancing,” she says.

“We hand 40 people in a conga line around the room and the mariachi band from Christchurch were fantastic – they blew me away. It was definitely the party of the year.”

Another happy event was the From Tawa to Hawera (and everything in between) with actor and comedian Ginette McDonald. “Locals were laughing from start to finish. She had it absolutely perfect – she had done her homework and talked about Hawera. I’ve not been to a good comedian in years and she was amazing.”

Numbers for both the Chapman Taylor and House and Garden Tours were doubled this year and both sold out and most of the Gardenia garden speaker events attracted 40 to 50 people.

Tours at Pukeiti and Tupare were also popular, as was the Sustainable Backyards Trail, which the festival also supported.

“It was an excellent festival, with lovely feedback from visitors. But, once again, we couldn’t do it without our spectacular gardeners,” Gatward-Cook says.

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