Love boat drawcard for Aussies

By Jennifer Rajca

Combining a wedding with a destination holiday is also a drawcard for Australian same-sex couples. Photo / 123RF
Combining a wedding with a destination holiday is also a drawcard for Australian same-sex couples. Photo / 123RF

When the Pacific Jemm isn't showing prime ministers a good time, it's helping marry Australia's same-sex couples.

The luxury super yacht, moored in Queenstown, is part of a booming local wedding industry that welcomes hundreds of Aussies.

Last month it also hosted the transtasman leaders and their wives on a dusk cruise.

The yacht's host Blair Payne says there has been a huge increase in weddings with Australians, especially gay couples, since the country legalised same sex marriages in 2013.

"We would be one of the first venues in New Zealand once it became legal," said.

He estimates the yacht has hosted over 40, with 80 per cent being female couples.

"As a business we would be very happy for Australia to not make it legal there, because it is good business for Queenstown and New Zealand."

It's estimated the bustling resort town hosts more than 1000 weddings a year.

But that's not all - it's also a popular destination for blessing ceremonies among Japanese and Chinese visitors.

Numbers have grown year on year, the Queenstown Wedding Association calculates.

"We're just enjoying the growth," president Tracy Maclaren says.

"We know that we're contributing quite considerably to the economy, more than even just a holiday maker."

Combining a wedding with a destination holiday is also a drawcard for Australian same-sex couples.

"On the whole they like to come and do something quite exclusive and special and we've got this fantastic scenery," she says.

"We do get people from as far away as the UK and USA as well coming over to celebrate their nuptials but Australia is so easy and so close."

But Australian marriage equality advocates believe Aussies shouldn't have to travel across the ditch.

"Australians should be able to marry the person that they love in the country they love," The Equality Campaign's executive director Tiernan Brady said.

"No one should have to go abroad to do what every other member of their family can already do here."

Nearly 3000 marriages and civil unions in New Zealand were registered to overseas residents in 2015, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Of those 438 were same-sex couples, with overseas residents making up nearly one-half of all same-sex couples marrying or forming civil unions in New Zealand that year.

- NZ Herald

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