A flutter and a few wines was the perfect day out for an aunty and her two nieces who spend most of the year separated by the vast distances of the Southern Ocean.

Niece Stacey Mathews and aunt Gilleen Webber live in Perth, Western Australia, and love reuniting with Kelly Kingston, of Papamoa, during the summer holidays.

And a traditional favourite for the ladies, who are all about the same age, is the Interislander Summer Festival at the Tauranga Racecourse.

They joined 4000 other racegoers yesterday to enjoy ideal conditions at a meeting that was Racing Tauranga's main public day of the year and where dress was definitely summer informal.


The aunt and her niece left their Papamoa homes for Perth about seven years ago.

''Why am I over there - a fella,'' said Mathews.

She said they always come back to Papamoa for the summer holidays and they always go to the races.

Webber described the races as a great day out for the family.

''And we are doing okay, we are still smiling,'' she said of their race picks so far.

Mathews liked how they could bring their own food and drink to the races and have a picnic trackside. And with plenty to do for the children, all ages were having fun.

She said she loved coming home because everyone was so friendly and the Kiwi service was pretty good.

The two ex-pats were not put off by Tauranga's rapid growth. ''We still like the feel of the place,'' Mathews said.

Kingston, who owns beauty salon Mount Skin and Body, likes how everyone dressed casually for the Interislander meeting.

Racing Tauranga chairman Rob Weatherley said it had been blessed with the weather. It was a bit overcast and a bit marginal for the beach, so people had decided to come to the races instead.

He estimated the crowd at about 4000, more than the two previous Interislander meetings. It was family friendly, with a kids' zone and events like the running race, tug o' war and sack race.

''It's been a very good day.''