Rockets into space will attract visitors, but how many and how dramatic the rockets will be are yet to be seen.
A Wanaka weather balloon attracted 1000 people at its launch despite being postponed three times which bodes well for Wairoa rocket tourism, says a report commissioned by Hawke's Bay Regional Council (HBRC).
The report investigated the tourism potential of the Rocket Lab space business that plans to launch satellites from the tip of Mahia Peninsula.
"Given that rocket launches are unreliable in terms of scheduling, the weather balloon launch is a good indication of the interest in such an event and the fact that visitors will turn up despite cancellations," the report said.
"It is also imperative to have other activities and interests in the area for visitors to do while waiting for the launch."
The latter is not a problem for Wairoa District, which has many natural attractions and a Wairoa District Council tourism plan to support increasing visitor numbers.
The steady increase in visitors is a nation-wide phenomenon and makes rocket tourism an added bonus.
Rocket tourism is an established activity worldwide but the isolation of the Mahia site and the smaller size of its rockets brought into question whether rocket tourism will be a game-changer.
New infrastructure such as toilets and accommodation would be needed - overseas rocket tourism locations have a visitors centre - but local tourism stakeholders were taking a "wait and see" approach before investing. The imminent test firings would be a good indicator of how attractive the rocket launches would be.
The fact that Wairoa has many natural attractions will support rocket tourism, the report said.
Possible viewing centres would likely be on coast, possibly as far as Wairoa, or could be viewed from the sea.
Public viewing of rocket launches on Onenui Station is not permitted and there will be nearby road closures and a coastal exclusion zone.
Rocket launches will not be as dramatic as Cape Canaveral in Florida, where larger Nasa rockets emit large amounts of steam around the launch pad and have highly visible plumes.
The coast as far as Wairoa is mooted as possible viewing areas, with the nearest mainland viewing site also hearing the launch, despite the launch area designed to dampen noise.
That rocket plumes will be visible from a distance is not in question but atmospheric conditions would affect visibility.
The cost of the report was shared between the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment ($33,000), HBRC ($13,000) Hawke's Bay Tourism ($10,000), Wairoa District Council ($5000) and Gisborne District Council ($5000).
It recommended more market research, putting infrastructure in place, being good hosts to visitors and establish a steering committee to action the recommendations.
"It would appear there are opportunities for tourism associated with rocket launches in the Wairoa District, but at this point a cautionary approach is advised and further groundwork recommended before any permanent infrastructure put in place.
"At the same time, preparation for and a quick response to the changing environment that the rocket test launches will create in the Wairoa District is recommended."
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