Police urge patience on West Coast roads as Chinese New Year boosts self-drive visitor numbers

By Brendon McMahon

Police urged West Coast motorists to be patient on the roads, with the earlier Chinese New Year expected to boost numbers of self-driving tourists. Photo / File
Police urged West Coast motorists to be patient on the roads, with the earlier Chinese New Year expected to boost numbers of self-driving tourists. Photo / File

Police today urged West Coast motorists to be patient on the roads with the earlier Chinese New Year expected to compound booming visitor numbers, as more self-driving tourists hit the road.

Chinese New Year celebrations got under way at the weekend, and continue for two weeks. The first day falls on the new moon between January 21 January and February 20, and this year started on Saturday, January 28, initiating the year of the Rooster.

The Chinese New Year peak is earlier than in previous years because of the date. It is also clashing with school holidays and the peak season, putting pressure on hotel room availability.

Greymouth prevention sergeant Paul Watson said some Asian nationalities had featured in calls directly fielded by police about poor driving.

Between Friday and yesterday they had eight driving complaints, but Mr Watson said that was likely to be only a fraction of what was actually happening on the roads with the increased traffic volumes.

"A lot of the issues are speed and the fact they are going quite slowly, holding up traffic," he said.

Reports of slow driving tended to be in the 70 to 80km/h range, with overseas drivers "quite oblivious" to traffic behind them which in turn made some other motorists "quite anti".

On Friday, while returning from Canterbury via Arthur's Pass, Mr Watson picked up four separate incidents of poor driving.

He urged motorists to report poor driving either by calling *555 from a cellphone, or by taking vehicle details and calling it in to police once they are able to.

According to Tourism New Zealand, arrival growth related to the Chinese New Year celebration is expected to be moderate compared to the big visitor increases in recent years.

Up to 33,000 Chinese New Year-related holidaymakers are expected to arrive in the country over the next fortnight, on top of the normal visitor peak.

Tourism NZ general manager Asia, David Craig, said the moderation in the growth of recent years was not a surprise.

"New Zealand experienced rapid growth in recent years of up to 40 per cent so a slowdown in growth can be expected. It comes at a time that New Zealand has become more expensive and other markets, especially the US and Europe, compete hard for Chinese visitors.

China's economic slowdown means their consumers are becoming more price conscious.
"At the same time Chinese travel behaviour is changing. There are fewer tour groups coming but the number of free independent travellers (FIT) is increasing.

"This has benefits for New Zealand as a tourism destination. Our primary focus is on FITs because they spend more over a longer time period and in more regions."

- Greymouth Star

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