Visits to Tauranga's downtown waterfront have shot up more than 40 per cent thanks to the irresistible lure of Hairy Maclary and his pals.
An average of nearly 42,000 people a month have crossed the railway line since nine statues of Dame Lynley Dodd's famous storybook characters were unveiled last year - up 12,550 on the previous monthly averages.
Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Rhys Arrowsmith said the data from four sensor-activated pedestrian counters on the waterfront had vindicated the tenacity of project leader Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell and the support of the council.
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"They are well on the way to becoming globally famous."
The sensors, installed by the council three months before the statues were unveiled on July 30, have allowed a before-and-after comparison on which to judge public interest.
It did not include people who walked down the waterfront from the direction of Dive Crescent.
Ms Rudduck-Gudsell said she never had any doubt about what the statues would bring to the city. They were always surrounded with people taking photos whenever she visited the waterfront.
Some brought their dogs and some were reading Hairy Maclary stories to their children and grandchildren.
"I am absolutely delighted to see the joy they are bringing," the former chief executive of Creative Tauranga and now business development manager for Heartland Bank said.
Ms Rudduck-Gudsell said the proof of popularity was in the way the original deep brown colour of the bronze had given way to gold in the places where the statutes were shining from being touched so much.
"Bottomley Potts' nose is quite gold now, he's gorgeous."
She said people were turning out in all weathers to admire the statues, including a lot of visitors from cruise ships.
She had spoken to many nationalities who all knew the stories of Hairy Maclary.
"People living here bring their visiting families."
Ms Rudduck-Gudsell said there was the potential for statues of other characters from the story books by Dame Lynley, particularly the cats. A good location would be Masonic Park between Willow St and The Strand.
She would be prepared to lead a project for a new set of statues, provided the council was keen.
The council said the numbers visiting the statues were conservative, not only because people walking down the waterfront were not counted but because the sensors sometimes picked up a passing group as one person.
The appeal of Hairy Maclary storybook statues
• Waterfront pedestrian count pre-statues: Monthly average 29,387
• Waterfront pedestrian count post-statues: Monthly average 41,941
• Difference attributed to the statues: plus 42.7 per cent
Source: Tauranga City Council