'People pour in' as town deals with huge demand on goods and service

THE Dargaville economy might benefit by around $19 million from the annual Northland Field Days but local businesses could be letting chances to cash in go begging.

There are no hard figures at this stage of the effect on the local economy of between 20,000 to 27,000 people a day visiting the show on the outskirts of a town which has a population of just under 5000.

But in 2008, a sample survey indicated that 23,000 people at the event equated to a $19 million boost for the local economy.

Northland Regional Council economist Darryl Jones said 633 visitors and 155 exhibitors were asked how much they spent on accommodation, entry, food, purchases and other costs while in the area.

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Mr Jones said the $19m figure was likely to apply today, too, because of low inflation in recent years.

Meanwhile, Blah Blah Blah staff can't say off the cuff how many extra flat whites they've made during these field days. The Dargaville cafe is busier at nights with dinner bookings than with casual daytime customers, according to owner Mark Willy who said the town itself hardly seemed much busier despite the huge event.

Peter Boyd, chairman of the Dargaville Business Forum, said the group encouraged people to make the most of having Dargaville's population explode by up to five times. He said there were opportunities not being taken up to entice visitors into town from the nearby field days' site packed with marquees, tents, stalls and all things rural.

"There are plenty of opportunities but it is up to individuals to decide what to do with that," Mr Boyd said.

"There are spin-offs everywhere and not just while the field days are on but down the line, too."

The event brought positive attention to a district, which had agriculture as its bread, butter and backbone but there was increasing interest in rural lifestyle and business opportunities, he said.

Sue Taylor runs the Kauri Coast Visitors Information Centre out of her and Rick Taylor's woodturning studio. The studio is a magnet for people wanting to watch a master craftsman turn out woodware but over the past couple of days most people have come in to ask about where to stay, eat and explore.

"There are people everywhere. We found the last motel in town for someone last night," Ms Taylor said yesterday. "It's all full now, motels units, hotel rooms, B & Bs, camping grounds, campervan sites ... She's chocka."

Ms Taylor said local stationery and copy shops, couriers, trucking and hire companies were among businesses that were flat-out during the show.

The impact would continue after the annual event, with exhibitors and visitors only having time to attend the field days but realising there is more to the district, and coming back another time to holiday in the area, she said.

The 32nd annual three-day event kicked off on Thursday and winds up today.

This year the Northland Field Days Society organisers reduced the entry fee from $15 to $12 and came up with a new family pass, in what president Lew Duggan said was a gesture of gratitude to longtime supporters.

Yesterday before edition time the organisers had no gate count available but said "people are pouring in". Exhibitor numbers were also near record capacity this year.