1000 couples ready to cross Tasman now same-sex marriage legal here, and some are also expected from Asia.
About 1000 Australian gay couples say they intend to marry in New Zealand in the wake of legislation that came into force yesterday.
Australian Marriage Equality deputy director Ivan Hinton said some gay couples from Southeast Asia would also probably marry in New Zealand because this was the first nation in the Asia-Pacific region to legalise same-sex weddings.
"Otherwise you'd be going to Canada or South America or Europe, so New Zealand is incredibly accessible," he said. His organisation ran an online poll just after the law was passed in April asking who intended to marry here and received almost 1000 responses within three days.
Births, Deaths and Marriages were notified of 15 same-sex couples who married yesterday.
There were three in Auckland, two in Christchurch, two in Dunedin, one in Nelson, one in Queenstown, two in Rotorua and four in Wellington.
The Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Jeff Montgomery, said 156 of the 977 marriage forms downloaded from the Internal Affairs Department website last week were for couples applying from overseas.
Tourism NZ Australia general manager Tim Burgess said 300 couples entered a competition run through the Sydney gay newspaper Star Observer to become the first Australian same-sex couple to marry in New Zealand. Winners Paul McCarthy and Trent Kandler from Newcastle, north of Sydney, married at Te Papa in Wellington yesterday.
"That is an indication that 300 couples were keen to come and do it in public in front of cameras, so that 1000 number seems entirely feasible," Mr Burgess said.
The partnership with the Star Observer did not involve any payment, he said. Wellington partners picked up the costs of the wedding, and the total cost of the campaign to Tourism NZ was less than $10,000.
Tourism NZ believes this country earns about $160 million a year from between 30,000 and 45,000 couples who come for honeymoons, and an extra 1000 honeymooners might spend about $4 million to $5 million.
Australian Census figures show that same-sex couples have increased from 0.3 per cent of all couples in 1996 to 0.7 per cent, or 33,700 couples, in the 2011 Census.
New Zealand's 2006 Census found that 0.7 per cent of Kiwi couples were in same-sex relationships.
In both countries, homosexual couples are younger, much better educated and better paid than heterosexual couples, although the pay differences partly reflect more heterosexual women (and some men) taking time out of paid work to bring up children.
In Australia, 1.6 per cent of partnered young people aged 15 to 24, but only 0.1 per cent of partnered seniors aged 65-plus, were in same-sex relationships in 2011. The comparable New Zealand data for 2006 were 1.6 per cent and 0.2 per cent.
The proportions of same-sex couples were highest in Sydney and Canberra (1.1 per cent) in 2011, and in Wellington (1.1 per cent) and Auckland (0.9 per cent) in 2006, with the lowest percentages in rural areas.
Mr Hinton said New Zealand's advantage in the gay wedding business might be short-lived; a gay marriage bill is expected to be passed in the next few months in the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra).
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has promised a federal bill if Labor wins next month's election.
But Mr Hinton said New Zealand would still have a scenic advantage over Canberra. He and his partner honeymooned here after marrying in Canada and returned later "because it was such a beautiful place".
* 1996 0.3 per cent
* 2001 0.5 per cent
* 2006 0.6 per cent
* 2011 0.7 per cent
* 2006 0.7 per cent.