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Kiwiana Capital gets set for growth

Tom O'Leary Dec 12
Kiwiana Capital gets set for growth
Otorohanga has been dubbed the Kiwiana capital of New Zealand.

Otorohanga is at a turning point with the anticipation of huge growth over coming years, says Otorohanga District Council chief executive Tanya Winter who was employed recently to take the district forward and help manage this growth.

“The district has been static for the past decade but due to the growth of Hamilton and Auckland we are feeling the fl ow on effects,” Tanya says.

“While the population hasn’t increased much yet, with some big commercial and subdivision projects happening in the district we are preparing the community for growth.”

While she says many locals are excited to have more people and businesses in the area Tanya says they sometimes don’t understand the downstream effects of growth.

“When you live in a community that hasn’t experienced a lot of development in the past it’s a change management process as there can be unintended consequences to that growth.

“For example they might be used to parking right outside their favourite café and then suddenly they are no longer be able to get a car park. We need to take the community on a journey through Council’s next long term planning process so they can express their vision for the district into the future.”

The Otorohanga District is located 50km south of Hamilton and the area governed by the Council covers 1976 square kilometres and extends from the Kawhia and Aotea Harbours on the west coast for a distance of 90km to the eastern extremity on the Waikato River near Mangakino. Included within the district are the urban communities of Otorohanga and Kawhia.

Currently the Otorohanga district has around 10,000 people living there with about 3000 living in the town. For a small rural community Tanya says Otorohanga “punches well above its weight” with a lot of community funded projects.

For example the Kiwiana Playground was opened just over a year ago and includes buzzy bee rides for children to play on. A brand new state of the art medical centre was also community funded and opened recently.

“While council hasn’t been directly involved in these projects we have seen ourselves as enablers – perhaps underwriting loans or supplying land.”

The council has also recently developed a 3.5km walking and cycling shared pathway running through the town centre, which Tanya says has proved popular and added to the vibrancy of the town.

Dubbed the Kiwiana capital of New Zealand, Otorohanga has long been used to differentiating itself from other towns, she says.

The town has a dedicated Kiwiana committee, which instigates lo-cal projects such as the new playground. The town has plaques throughout celebrating kiwiana icons such as buzzy bees, kiwifruit and pavlova.

A Sir Edmund Hillary walkway opposite the bus stop and iSite is popular with tourists. It features displays on various kiwi icons such as marmite, red band gumboots and the All Blacks.

While historically the town has been seen as somewhere to drive through or stop off briefly on the way to other places such as Waitomo’s glow worm caves Tanya says that she would like to see Otorohanga become more of a destination in its own right.

The town has its own Kiwi House with live kiwis and many other points of interest, including the quaint seaside township of Kawhia.

“Otorohanga is a small rural community that’s nestled in amongst some of the bigger players in the golden triangle – Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo and New Plymouth – but somehow it’s managed to retain its small town feel. “We’re in an amazing location – so close to larger places yet a world away from everything as well.”

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