Tourism brings attitude change

By Laurel Stowell,

A growing and sustainable tourism business at Pipiriki has changed residents' attitudes toward visitors, Whanganui River Adventures owners Ken and Josephine Haworth say.

In summer the Whanganui River settlement is the place where as many as 50 people a day end their journey through Whanganui National Park. It has sometimes had a food outlet, and has public toilets, a shelter for visitors and a Department of Conservation field centre.

Several jet boat operators use its slipway, but there was no accommodation for visitors until the Haworths extended their jetboat and canoe hire operation to include a campground, two cabins and a small takeaway food shop.

They opened the campground 13 months ago, and this summer visitor numbers are well above what they were last year.

Local people helped fix up the old school, and two of them have full-time jobs there in the season.

The village was in good spirits, Mr Haworth said, and people's attitude to tourism was changing.

"Before it was just a pain. Tourism is actually helping them to live now. This is becoming a bit of a heart of the place," he said.

On January 9 Whanganui River Adventures hosted 20 people on its daily jetboat trip to the Bridge to Nowhere. In the afternoon the business was to pick up 18 Whanganui Summer Programme cyclists at the Mangapurua Landing, and take them to Pipiriki.

On a busy night there might be up to 15 people staying in the campground and cabins, and a trickle of people wanting food. The campground's shop sells ice-creams, meals and takeaways, including a river burger with the works.

"We know how hungry people get when they get off the river after three to five days," Mrs Haworth said.

Hundreds have been using the Mangapurua section of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail.

"They love it. It's a blast. It's not a rail trail. It's definitely an adventure trail. The ones that do it thoroughly enjoy it, as long as it isn't wet," Mrs Howarth said.

The long Te Araroa Trail also passes through Pipiriki, and Mr Howarth said as many as 12 people walked, cycled or canoed it every week.

The Haworths' main business is still jetboat tours and canoe hire. They can transport canoeists to the main river gorge by jetboat and leave them to paddle back to Pipiriki. Their van transports cyclists to the top of the Ruatiti Valley where they can cycle the Mangapurua section of the Mountains to Sea trail in five to six hours, be picked up in a jetboat and returned to their accommodation all in one day.

Pipiriki's two-room school closed in 2006, when it had just four pupils. It was on Maori land, and Pipiriki Incorporation bought its buildings from the Education Ministry. The Haworths have a long-term lease on those buildings.

When they took over the paint was peeling, windows were broken and weeds were sprouting through the tennis court. Local people helped with painting and repair work.

The school's former rugby field is now a mown campground with two cabins. Its repaved tennis court provides plenty of parking. One of the schoolrooms is a kitchen and lounge for campers. The other is a shop and assembly area for tour groups, and the former staffroom is a kitchen and office. The refurbished school toilets are open for campers, and the Haworths plan to add showers this year, when water pressure has been increased by reticulation of Pipiriki's water supply.

The Haworths were raised in the area and went to Pipiriki School. Mrs Haworth was elected to the Pipiriki Incorporation three years ago, and passes its information on to the village.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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