People, profits pour into Wanaka

Victoria Murray-Orr.
Victoria Murray-Orr.
A flood is again heading towards Lake Wanaka - not a surplus of water, but a deluge of triathletes arriving for Saturday's Challenge Wanaka endurance race.

Fifteen hundred competitors with, on average, five supporters each, are flowing into the town

for one of the biggest annual sporting events in Otago.

Challenge Wanaka organiser Victoria Murray-Orr estimates the event is worth $6 million to the region in direct spending. And she says the event also has a valuable indirect benefit.

''This year, we have magazines flying in from the United States, from Europe and Australia to cover the event.

''One of those magazines is doing a feature on dream destinations.

''Lake Wanaka Tourism couldn't afford to take out a six-page advertising spread in that magazine but we get the editorial,'' she said.

Wanaka Chamber of Commerce chairman Alistair King agreed the event put Wanaka on the map as a ''premium multisport destination''.

Putting on such a large event came with challenges, but it contributed positively to the local economy, he said.

''We hope the businesses of Wanaka make the most of the competitors and visitors in town to make a positive impact of their profitability.''

Kai Whakapai Cafe co-owner Roger North expects to be ''mega busy'' on race day.

He said with the exception of New Year's Day, when heavy rain meant coffees were in hot demand, Challenge Wanaka was the biggest day of the year for the business.

''It's huge for food and coffee and has no effect on alcohol. They're all a fit bunch of people,'' Mr North said of his typical clientele.

''What used to be the two busiest weeks of summer ... it effectively extends it for a three-week period ... it's a very big deal for the town financially.''

Extra staff will be rostered at the cafe to cope with the influx on Saturday. Mr North, on the other hand, will be competing in a team in the event, and his wife Shonagh will do the entire race as an individual for the fourth time.

Ms Murray-Orr said the race's benefits included improvements being made to the town's infrastructure and upskilling of volunteers in things like first aid and traffic control.

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