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Festival bolsters economy

Greytown’s Festival of Christmas saved the region from an economic slide. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

People spent a whopping $35 million on retail in Wairarapa last month, a 25 per cent increase on spending pre-covid.

But despite the “game changer” that was Greytown’s Festival of Christmas the great spending slowdown has reared its head, with people battling rising interest rates and food prices.

Figures made public by Worldline showed spending had increased just 0.3 per cent compared with July last year.

There was also $3m less spent last month than in April this year.

With an annual increase of 0.3 per cent last month, Wairarapa fared better than most regions, with a national average drop of 0.3 per cent.

Worldline NZ head of data George Putnam said rising interest rates, higher fuel prices, and wet weather were likely factors in the spending drop.

Inflation reached unpalatable levels recently, rising at a higher-than-expected pace of 7.3 per cent over the second quarter.

It has affected grocery and restaurant prices as food prices rose 6.6 per cent in June 2022 compared with June 2021.

Fruits and vegetables have also become costlier, bringing affordability concerns to the spotlight.

All these factors leave less disposable income for New Zealand households.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Wairarapa.

Wairarapa Business general manager Nicola Belsham said tourism gave the region an economic edge.

“Wairarapa is a great tourist destination. Our economy is led by tourism which makes us more buoyant than other areas.”

Throughout July, the Greytown Festival of Christmas brought 50,000 people into the region.

Destination Wairarapa marketing manager Barbara Hyde said Greytown’s festival was a game changer for the town and wider region.

“Thousands of people came to the region, not just Greytown. There isn’t enough accommodation in Greytown so the tourists spilled into other areas like Martinborough.

“The festival was born after the 2020 lockdown but it’s just grown.”

In April, $38m was spent on core retail in Wairarapa, 5.4 per cent higher than last year and 29.7 per cent higher than April 2019.

Hyde said the dip last month reflected the rise in living costs.

Destination Wairarapa said it would continue to support events in the region, such as the Wairarapa Balloon Festival, Wings Over Wairarapa, Harvest Festival, and Toast Martinborough to bring extra dollars to the region.

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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