Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Fight is on to be NZ's Vegas equivalent

A powhiri at the Rotorua Maori Cultural centre. Photo / Tracey Scott
A powhiri at the Rotorua Maori Cultural centre. Photo / Tracey Scott

Vegas has played host to plenty of heavyweight contests over the years - now the fight is on for the right to be the Kiwi equivalent.

In one corner is Rotorua, holder of the Rotovegas nickname; in the other the challenger - Mid-Canterbury's Ashburton, bidding to rebrand itself Ashvegas.

The idea was floated at a meeting of the Ashburton Business Association on Monday.

Ashburton Trust chief executive Giles Beal said it was time for the town to consider a new image, a new slogan and a new way of doing business.

"We're doing some strategic marketing at the moment and it's been floated that using this idea could be a possibility. If it was handled right it could be a winner.

"It would probably have to be driven by tourism but if there was the impetus in town to do it then it's something we'd probably get right behind."

According to Max Cryer's Godzone Dictionary, Rotovegas is "an amusing and affectionate nickname for Rotorua, combining its name with Las Vegas, as a none-too-subtle acknowledgement of the tourist and Maori entertainment industry that makes up a major part of the local economy".

And local councillor Karen Hunt is keen to hang on to the nickname.

"I think it's been something that the younger generation have adopted because to them it means somewhere to go and have fun."

She wished Ashburton good luck with its campaign, but said adopting the name could seem "manufactured".

"I think they're going to have to work pretty hard to claim that because it's not something you produce, it's something that's been bestowed on you.

"Quite frankly, they're in the South Island so they're no competition to us - they don't have the geysers, they don't have the mountain biking, they don't have the fabulous lakes and the highest tandem skydive in the world so I'll be interested to see what they promote as a reason to call themselves Ashvegas."

However Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters said he would be happy to pass the mantel to Ashburton because he doesn't like the way it links his town with gambling.

"I'll send it to them in the mail this week. I don't think it portrays us in the way I would like us to be portrayed."

- APNZ

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