Bronze statues of Hairy Maclary and his irresistible pals have triggered huge community interest, with more visitors in the first four days since they were unveiled than normally visited Tauranga's waterfront in two weeks. The four sensor-activated pedestrian counters on the downtown waterfront clicked 13,552 passes between the Thursday opening and Monday last week. Council communications adviser Marcel Currin said this compared with 29,161 for the whole of the previous month. Mr Currin stressed they were approximate figures because the sensors sometimes counted a passing group as one person.
A lot of the postings are from people saying they must visit Tauranga and see the statues. A lot are Aussies.The woman who drove the project, Creative Tauranga chief executive Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell, said the interest had been phenomenal, including nearly 81,000 visits to the Hairy Maclary sculptural Facebook page in the first few days. She said numbers visiting the statues were substantially higher than counted, not only because the sensors did not pick up all of a group that went past, but people who walked down the waterfront from Dive Crescent were not counted at all. "The figures are very conservative, the numbers on Saturday were incredible. I went down there and couldn't move, it was chocka. Many people had their dogs." The crowds continued after nightfall because the statues were lit up and the full moon made the area look beautiful. "Gorgeous photos have been going up on Facebook." Visitors to the Facebook page included people from Poland and Indonesia. "A lot of the postings are from people saying they must visit Tauranga and see the statues. A lot are Aussies." Ms Rudduck-Gudsell said primary schools and kindergartens had been coming to the statues for readings from Hairy Maclary books. She believed the statues also had great potential for fundraising activities that related to dogs, like the SPCA. Creative Tauranga's former chairman Grant Sowter said he was there at 8pm on Friday night and could not get near the statues because of the crowds. Tautea Tocker, the owner of the Cornerstone Pub, said bringing more people to The Strand was definitely a bonus. He said the statues had probably contributed to higher takings, but it was too early to say whether it would have a big effect. "In the long term it will be good. It will be an attraction for out-of-towners," Mr Tocker said.