Data showing a big increase in visitors to the waterfront since the arrival of the bronze statues of Hairy Maclary and his pals will hopefully put to rest the naysayers who labelled the project a waste of money.

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.

The woman who drove the project, Creative Tauranga chief executive Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell can rightly take heart in the figures. They confirm her view that the statues will be a major drawcard for visitors.

She says the numbers visiting the statues are 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.

Advertisement

Projects such as this often spark debate. They raise questions about what is important for the city, and what will make it a better place to live.

The arts have an important role to play in adding character and vibrancy to Tauranga.

As National MP Simon Bridges noted when the new statues were unveiled: Tauranga has some of the best hard infrastructure in New Zealand, such as roads and schools. "But we have some way to go with the softer stuff like the arts."

News that the sculptures are bringing a large number of Hairy Maclary fans to waterfront will be welcomed by restaurants and businesses in the area that stand to benefit from the increase in foot traffic. If that continues, then the investment will pay off over time.

In the early going at least, Ms Rudduck-Gudsell's vision is already paying dividends.