Student influx boosts Dunedin businesses

By Vaughan Elder

Moving stored items from last year's flat on Dundas St are University of Otago students, all of New Plymouth. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery
Moving stored items from last year's flat on Dundas St are University of Otago students, all of New Plymouth. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery

The annual migration of students back to Dunedin has begun, with the influx of young people providing a boost to local businesses.

Among those rushed off their feet by the returning masses was Air New Zealand Dunedin airport manager Alistair Bevin, who said the week before the start of O-Week was one its busiest times of year.

The annual rush of students flying into the city started last weekend and would run for about a week, Mr Bevin said.

The airline had increased its capacity "dramatically" to keep up with demand, but it would still be a "struggle" finding a seat on any of the flights coming into the city over the week, he said.

The greatest difficulty for the airline was trying to squeeze all the students' baggage on to the planes.

"They are bringing the flat with them. We make an allowance for a full load of people with one or two bags each, but when they are all coming with three or four bags, not to mention the bikes and the surfboards ...

it puts us under a strain."

In the past the airline had been forced to transport some luggage by land from Christchurch, but Mr Bevin hoped that would not be necessary this year.

Johns Furniture Warehouse store director Matt Williamson compared the influx of students to the "salmon run", with the impact on its business contained to a few weeks around orientation.

Students for the most part bought a "cheap bed" at the start of their first year flatting and then never returned, Mr Williamson said.

The store's delivery people were busy delivering beds to the student quarter, with many buying beds online before they came into town and having them delivered after they arrived.

"The guys are just flat stick all day at the moment, with load after load of beds." Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors would notice a boost from the students coming into town.

The students were also often accompanied by their parents in the first week, who also spent money while they were in town and stayed at local hotels, Mr Christie said.

University of Otago vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said the arrival of students brought a "unique sense of vibrancy and vigour to Dunedin that lasts throughout the academic year".

"I warmly welcome them all and encourage them to make the most of living and learning in our beautiful city," Prof Hayne said.

The university's most recent economic impact report calculated that students added a value of more than $260 million to Dunedin, she said.

- Otago Daily Times

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