Last weekend, the Waitaki Aquatic Centre hosted more than 500 competitors and their supporters – from as far away as Nelson and Invercargill – for the 2019 South Island Secondary Schools Canoe Polo Championships.
Despite having no local teams competing, Oamaru’s pool managed to secure hosting rights for the fourth time – and is now locked in to host the annual event again in 2020.
“They’re coming because of the town and facilities – not because there’s a local team driving it,” Waitaki Aquatic Centre manager Matthew Lanyon said.
Despite offers from Invercargill and Dunedin to host next year’s tournament, Oamaru was chosen again.
The North Otago town’s central location was appealing, Lanyon said.
“After their managers’ meeting on Sunday, they decided they wanted to come back here next year, which is great,” he said.
“They wanted to come back because they like Oamaru, they like the relationship we’ve built up with them over the last couple of years.
“It’s not the best pool to do it in, but everything else kind of stacks up for it, which is always nice to hear.”
The tournament was a good pathway to competing on the national stage, he said.
Teams representing their schools from around the South Island compete at regional qualification tournaments to earn entry to the New Zealand Canoe Polo Schools Championships.
The top teams from each of the qualification events are eligible to contest Under-15, Under-19 Division 1, and Under-19 Division 2 categories at the national event.
“For some of those up-and-comers, it gives them some exposure on the South Island stage, then to national level and then an international stage as well,” Lanyon said.
There were more than 3000 visits recorded at the Oamaru pool over the weekend.
“This year we had way more Oamaru people coming to visit and watch,” he said.
“Lots of people coming down for a bit of a look, which is cool.”
Lanyon worked closely with event organisers to support the 26 teams to stay in Oamaru and said the economic benefit for North Otago was “great”.
“Based on those numbers coming to town, it could be worth anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000 [to] the town.
“It’s great for the town, it’s over 500 competitors and supporters who probably wouldn’t come to Oamaru otherwise.
“They got to have a look at the place, experience something different and .. we work hard with [event organisers] to make sure they have a good experience and they want to come back.”
The 2020 competition has been “pencilled in” to run from August 7 to 9 in Oamaru and Lanyon hoped to see a local team entering.
“It’d be great if we could get a local team there,” he said.
“I’m sure St Kevin’s, Waitaki Girls’ and Waitaki Boys’ must have kayakers in and around.
“It’s kind of ironic when we’re putting on an event and we don’t have any local teams competing in it.
“But I suppose it’s quite nice in some ways because they’re coming here because of what’s on offer, not because of who’s here.”