Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Fieldays attendance 'defies gravity', says organiser

National Agricultural Fieldays held at Mystery Creek near Hamilton attracted 130,684 visitors over the four days, just shy of the record attendance in 2006. Photo / Alan Gibson
National Agricultural Fieldays held at Mystery Creek near Hamilton attracted 130,684 visitors over the four days, just shy of the record attendance in 2006. Photo / Alan Gibson

Attendance to this year's Fieldays near Hamilton is just behind the agri-business event's biggest and "defies gravity", according to the organiser.

The annual event attracted 130,684 visitors over the four days, which is only several hundred people behind 2006 when a record 131,000 flocked to Mystery Creek.

National Fieldays Society chief executive Peter Nation said the event, in its 48th year, was one of the biggest and supported earlier number crunching that when there was an economic downturn - whether it be the global financial crisis or the latest downturn - gate numbers rose.

"I have no theory as to that apart from we know through evidence a number of farmers like time off the farm. They use the Fieldays to go to the event anyway regardless of buying. They go to the event anyway because it's a good day out."

Mr Nation said it also showed there was more to the rural industry than just dairy and believed other areas such as honey and kiwifruit contributed to the success.

"There are a whole lot of things going on in the industry - the horticulture and viticulture are going really strongly. They come to Fieldays. They buy tractors, mowers. The clothing businesses [were busy] this year. One business sold out of all their product on Friday and had nothing for Saturday."

Research shows Fieldays contributed $400 million to the New Zealand economy and $150 million of that is spent directly in the Waikato region.

The event also attracted more international visitors than previous years with delegates from 42 countries, including representatives from Cuba and Vietnam attending for the first time.

"From an economic point of view, I think it's outstanding that people show faith in coming. The gate numbers show people came ... exhibitors were just blown away by the amount of interest in sales and quotes they took. They went there with no preconceived ideas and came away absolutely surprised."

He said a dairy supplier sold more in the first day than last year's entire Fieldays, while others reported to be 30-40 per cent up on sales and another had seven to eight months of orders in his order book. "As I say, it defies gravity."

The event was also a hit with townies - many who travelled from Auckland.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy congratulated the National Fieldays Society on putting on another successful event which helped put the primary sector in the spotlight.

Mr Guy said the launch of the Primary Industry "Champions Initiative", which featured well-known New Zealanders Richie McCaw, Rob and Sonia Waddell and Sir David Fagan, would raise awareness of the primary sector and encourage young people to launch careers in the area. This was supported by the Fieldays Careers and Education Hub which was set up for students to talk to farmers and educators about what a career in the agricultural industry could entail.

Fieldays was now looking at moving the Careers and Education Hub and the Innovation Hub to bigger sites after receiving huge interest from other exhibitors to be involved next year.

- NZ Herald

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