Chinese New Year at new heights

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Last week’s Chinese New Year celebrations in Oamaru were so popular with locals and visitors alike, an expanded version of the event is being planned for next year.

Thousands flocked to Friendly Bay last Friday to mark the year of the rooster, with activities and attractions on offer including lantern making, a kung fu demonstration, petting zoo, kite flying, a screening of animated film Mulan and a fireworks demonstration.

The event was organised by the Oamaru Chinese Association, Waitaki District Council and Tourism Waitaki.

Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill said the celebrations were a huge success.

“The event was very well received. All the feedback we’ve had has been very positive.

“The community members that were involved have expressed their enthusiasm for it continuing and I think the mix of events was quite good . . . we’re looking forward to what we can do next year. For doing it on this scale for the first time, it went really, really well.”

He said the celebrations would be expanded in 2018.

“That’s the plan, to encourage it to become more of a staple in the annual calendar of the district. It was a good start.”

Meanwhile, the number of Chinese visitors to the Waitaki district over the Chinese New Year period, which this year was from January 28 until February 10, grew compared to previous years.

While Mr Gaskill did not have specific Chinese visitor numbers for the new year period available, with the exception of Chinese visitors to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, indicators pointed to growth on previous years.

“From what I’ve seen, Chinese visitors to our district are up this year, but the way they’re coming to us is a little bit different – it seems to be changing subtly. There are more that self-drive and more that are coming on their own itineraries. The traditional coach tours are still very steady, particularly to the colony.”

This year, 4203 Chinese visited the colony over the Chinese New Year period, up 17% on 2016 and 28% on 2015.

“The main thing they’re looking for are experiences that will put them in touch with wildlife, natural landscapes and open space, the traditional things we think of that makes New Zealand quite unique.

“Our district is ripe with that.”

He said Chinese visitors particularly enjoyed visiting the Moeraki Boulders and the clay cliffs in the Waitaki Valley.

When in Oamaru, they were visiting local retailers and restaurants, and staying overnight at local accommodation providers.

Mr Gaskill said many Chinese-based companies had expressed strong interest in expanding the number of visitor activities offered district and he expected them to expand their itineraries too.