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Watch NZH Local Focus: Whitianga population explodes over summer

For most of the year Mercury Bay has a population of around 5,000 people. But over the summer season the population more than triples to around 18,000 people.

That makes it a 'make or break' time for local businesses according to Chair of the Mercury Bay Business Association, Gary Fitzsimons.

"That peak time is a critical peak but it's only from Boxing Day through until about the 7th of January, that's the over peak time and then we get down to what we call normal time."

Mr Fitzsimons says the weather plays a big part in the season, but up to 30-40 percent of some businesses income is usually generated within the first three months of the year.

Mr Fitzsimons says there's always a clear sign that the peak period is approaching, as the roads get resealed and "spruced up".

"TCDC [Thames Coromandel District Council] do a really good job of making the town look pretty the day before Christmas."

For the businesses that keep operating over Christmas and through the New Year it can be a stressful time.

But Espy Cafe owner, Duncan Wood says it gets easier every year.

"Each year you get better at it and so we're better this year than we were last year, our wait times aren't as long."

He says the local kids even have a chance to make some money. They run the ice-cream bar at his cafe, serving up more than 80 litres of shake-ice-cream a day over the peak period.

"You definitely get a huge spike which sort of does the bank balance good over this time and then you watch it dwindle out over the rest of the year."

Destination Coromandel Manager, Hadley Dryden agrees that this year has been a record season for the area, and with the warmer water that's "working its way in" he believes next year there will be another increase in visitor numbers.

But visitors don't just bring their wallets. Rebecca Sarjeant, an ex-resident of Whitianga says the town diversifies with different nationalities creating a great vibe.

"For me I absolutely love it. It's not really a bombardment, it's integral for the survival of these smaller coastal towns."

But with more people in town, supermarkets and roads are packed with people, which can be an inconvenience for Tash Bentley who has lived in Whitianga with her family for about a year.

"You do notice the influx of people. You notice when the Aucklanders come into town. It can be pretty manic, and the supermarket is just chaotic with people. Everyone sort of runs out of food, so we're pretty glad when everyone leaves town, it gets back to nice calm Whitianga."

Over at Hot Water Beach, crowds can peak at 2,000 people per hour.

A team of over 60 paid and volunteer lifeguards devote their summer to keeping everyone safe at Cathedral Cove, Hahei and Hot Water Beach.

Hot Water Beach Surf Club Chairman, Gary Hinds, manages the three beaches and says it's getting busier every year. Already he's seeking funds to help pay for the next summer season.

"We've got the people to do it and they're skilled enough, it's just having the equipment and the assets on the beach."

Over summer the Council puts on extra rubbish collection services and has compliance officers out ensuring dog owners are meeting dog bylaws, and ensuring freedom campers aren't pushing boundaries.

A council spokesperson said daily water usage increased from about 4,500 m3 to around 6,500 m3 a day.

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- NZ Herald

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