Northland's $28 million summer cruise ship season did not start under the best of circumstances on Friday when a massive power cut greeted the arrival of the Diamond Princess and its 2750 mainly Australian passengers into Paihia.
The Diamond Princess is the first of a record 54 cruise ships expected to visit the Bay of Islands in the 2015-16 season, eclipsing the previous highest tally of 52 in the Rugby World Cup season of 2011-12. The visitors are forecast to inject $28.7 million into Northland's economy.
And despite the Bay - along with almost the rest of the Far North - suffering the power cut, businesses improvised to ensure the cruise ship visitors got served.
Power went out across the Far North, due to a fault in the area where the national grid feeds into Top Energy's Kaikohe substation. The outage also shut down Ngawha geothermal power station, leaving Taipa the only place between Towai and Cape Reinga where power stayed on. Top Energy installed a diesel generator at Taipa some years ago, after Doubtless Bay had a run of power cuts.
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Most shops in the Bay stayed open and improvised. One exchanged its electronic till for a cardboard box of cash. The rushed arrival of generators at Cellini's, an icecream parlour, was greeted with loud cheers. At Alongside, a waterfront cafe, staff tweaked the menu and brought out a gas barbecue.
Top Energy has been working with Transpower, which operates the national grid, to identify the cause.
Chairman of Business Paihia's cruise ship committee Heinz Marti said that, while the number of vessels was only eight more than last year, the number of passengers would almost double from 60,000 to 105,000, due to the ships' ever-increasing size.
The benefits were spread across the Far North, he said. On average, a third of passengers pre-booked tours as far away as Hokianga or the glowworm caves at Waiomio.
Another third organised their own excursions by hire car or helicopter, or stayed in town spending money, while the rest stayed on board.
Among other ships visiting the Bay of Islands will be several new vessels, including the Costa Luminosa, Noordam, Le Soleal and Azamara Quest.
The biggest by passenger numbers will be the Explorer of the Seas and the Voyager of the Seas, each of which carry about 4000 passengers.