From the Regions: Coromandel’s Hadley Dryden

Cathedral Cove, The Coromandel. Image: Mike Bordignon

In a summer of heatwaves and downpours, the Coromandel was the first to feel the downside when a storm swept through the region in early January. Destination Coromandel’s general manager, Hadley Dryden, tells us about the impacts, as well as a possible opportunity, that followed.

Hadley Dryden

In the leadup to the storm, we were hearing it was going to be a record summer for the region. But when the storm hit the peninsula there was an immediate impact from Thames right up to Coromandel town. And, across the Firth of Thames, Kaiaua, was the worst affected.

According to operators though, the impact for the industry was felt much further afield right down into the Hauraki. It was a lot quieter across the region from then on, particularly in Thames right up the coast.

Even though Thames itself was not affected badly by the storm, people come through the town to travel further north and that traffic died off during that time because of damage to the Thames Coast Road. The Thames-Coromandel District Council and its contractors did a fantastic job getting that road open again as the damage was significant.

So, operator bookings across the region were lost on the other side of the storm but over the long term they have been maintained.

There was some impact on the Hauraki Rail Trail at the Kaiaua end but it is now open again from Miranda. However, the Thames Coast Road is still in repair mode and that will last until at least March.

We are hoping that when they repair the Thames Coast Road that they will consider putting in a coastal walkway and bike trail as well. We have been in touch with NZTA and the council and they are discussing that option but it might be late February or early March before they can really assess the idea’s potential.

If it does go ahead, it would be huge for the region. The biggest problem then would be providing enough accommodation in the area but there are talks underway to develop new supply but nothing is confirmed at this stage.

With all that said, the hotspots in the region on the east coast of the peninsula, did not really miss a beat. For the eastern seaboard from Whitianga down to Waihi it was business as usual.

Traditionally, Destination Coromandel never promotes the summer because it really does look after itself. However, we were pretty quick to get into recovery mode after the storm hit to get the message out that businesses are still operating and the road is back open. We released a video promoting the fact that the Coromandel is back in business, and that did pretty well.

Out next campaign will be around the Coromandel Coastal Walkway, which is north of Coromandel town. We are working with locals to ensure we have a positive impact on communities up there and that we don’t negatively impact infrastructure.

By and large, the Coromandel is a fairly low yield region compared to others so we are trying to encourage visitors to spend more. We want people to use the Coromandel Coastal Walkway but to do so on a guided tour.

The walk itself takes seven hours so it provides an opportunity for people to stay the night in the region. Data also shows that visitors who come to the Coromandel and drive up one side of the peninsula are more likely to drive down the other side on the way home. So, the walk encourages people to stay longer, see more of the region and spend more.

One issue I have not heard any major complaints about from across the region is freedom camping. The council has worked very closely with the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association to have clearly defined areas where people can camp and enforced parameters around where they cannot.

But looking around at what is happening with freedom camping in other regions it does seem to be getting worse. I think people would like to see something led from central government or some sort of national mandate that everybody can follow.

The issue seems to have settled a bit in the Coromandel and that is partly because of the council’s successful applications to the Tourism Infrastructure Fund. That has helped the council put in facilities at popular destinations like Hot Water Beach, which has alleviated some concerns.

If good infrastructure is in place then locals can use it too and that helps build advocacy from the community for tourism. By and large, most people in the Coromandel understand that tourism is a leading driving of economic activity in the region and they support it.

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