Kmart Rotorua has opened with a special Rotorua touch and the store owner said the first day has been issue free and "tremendous".

The store opened to a fanfare of cheers and waiata at 8am today, with Pukeroa Oruawhata directors, local politicians and the mayor greeting the first customers as they rushed in.

People had camped overnight, sheltering beneath the Kmart sign in their pyjamas, and others arrived before dawn, clutching takeaway coffee cups.

Store manager Forrest Worthen said the best way to describe the day was as "full of energy".

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"Having the people here and this mornings opening ceremony was quite moving.

"It's just been tremendous, the cultural piece was quite special."

Worthen said the day had been consistently busy and there had been no down time at all.

"It will for sure continue through opening weekend."

He said the team had felt really in control, the checkouts had run quickly, there had been no traffic problems and there hadn't really been any issues.

Overnight a team will work to restock the store ready for tomorrow.

A cold night camping outside was worth it for one Rotorua woman who got to be the first customer to set foot in the brand new Kmart store.

Beckie Ransfield had been waiting outside the store for seven hours, turning up at 1am.

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Kmart drew locals like moths to a flame and by 8am the queue stretched to the end of the store, looping back on itself as hundreds of people waited for a first glimpse inside.

"I saw there were other people already there on Facebook, so I decided to head down," Ransfield said.

Until now Ransfield had been shopping at the Bethlehem store and said the appeal of Kmart was the pricing.

"I freaked out because I just wanted to get a goody bag, I literally ran.

"I just grabbed items quickly, I was happy to be in there.

"Fortunately I had told my boss beforehand, because I was all over Facebook videos rushing in there."

Twystee Pari and Blake-Kali Rangirangi , 1, were among the first at Kmart. Photo/Stephen Parker
Twystee Pari and Blake-Kali Rangirangi , 1, were among the first at Kmart. Photo/Stephen Parker

As the countdown ended and the doors opened they raced inside to collect goody bags and cupcakes.

Doreen Kolo had been waiting with a friend since 6am.

"It was worth the wait," she said.

"This Kmart is actually pretty cool, I love looking at the kids' clothes and I will possibly grab some perfume."

Kolo had already collected her goody bag and had a trolley ready to be filled.

Queues of people wait ahead of Kmart opening in Rotorua. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post
Queues of people wait ahead of Kmart opening in Rotorua. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post

Before the crowds were allowed in, the Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust, which owns Trade Central where Kmart was built, held a powhiri to mark a milestone in the $19.5 million complex.

Chairman Malcolm Short said the day had been "long and eagerly awaited".

"This is the largest single project undertaken by Pukeroa so far."

He said it was humbling to have met the mother of a 17-year-old girl who had found her first job at Kmart.

"To hear first-hand the excitement and pride was truly gratifying."

Opening of Kmart in Rotorua this morning. Photo/Stephen Parker
Opening of Kmart in Rotorua this morning. Photo/Stephen Parker

More than 2400 people applied for the 100 jobs at the Kmart and Short said it was great to see 25 per cent of the new staff members came from Ngati Whakaue descent.

Short said he would do some shopping when things were quieter.

Reverend Tom Poata devoted a prayer to the new Kmart building, joined by the Pukeroa directors, the kapa haka group from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Koutu, visitors to the Pohiri and the Kmart staff.

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said it was a wonderful morning for Rotorua.

"The thrill of this is seeing these people that have got a job, our own people.

"As a council we like to consult with the community and there has been two things we've been asked for over the past few years - a Kmart and a hydro slide. Now we have one of those things."

Chadwick said the population had grown, "it's now at 72,000", and thanked Kmart for believing in Rotorua's economy.

"I'm not a very good shopper; but I think I'll buy the Reverend some new socks," she joked.

Opening of Kmart in Rotorua this morning. Photo/Stephen Parker
Opening of Kmart in Rotorua this morning. Photo/Stephen Parker

Poata showed the odd pair he had accidentally put on this morning.

Chadwick and Kmart head of property Ben Smith then unveiled an art work at the front of the store.

The specially commissioned design on the windows reflects the eight tribes of Te Arawa called Nga Pumanawa e Waru o Te Arawa.

#LIVE: The ribbon has officially been cut and Kmart Rotorua is open.

Posted by Rotorua Daily Post on Thursday, 15 March 2018

Maori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta was there to celebrate with Pukeroa Oruawhata.

"I'm honoured to join Ngati Whakaue, Kmart and the Rotorua District Council in celebrating this occasion.

"This investment by Pukeroa Oruawhata is a great economic and social investment in the city and its people."

As a mark of the partnership between Pukeroa-Oruawhata and Kmart, the organisations co-commissioned the carving of three pou for the front of the Rotorua store.

Opening of Kmart in Rotorua this morning. Photo/Stephen Parker
Opening of Kmart in Rotorua this morning. Photo/Stephen Parker

The pou have been carved by Ngāti Whakaue carver Paki Wilson and his team of master carvers.

Kmart country manager Jason Pickard said the team had felt "really welcome" in the Rotorua community.

"We're like celebrities when we wander around in our Kmart shirts; people come up to us just so happy to see the store here.

"In a few minutes time we're going to let all these people into the store, let's really create a magic moment for Rotorua, dreams come true, Kmart is here."

The final karakia, after the cutting of the ribbon, came from Te Arawa kaumatua Ken Kennedy.

The NZ Transport Agency, the Rotorua Lakes Council, Kmart and Pukeroa Oruawhata, which owns Trade Central, have worked together to make the opening weekend as smooth as possible.

Signs have been up on Pukuatua St for the past few days warning of expected traffic delays.
When Kmart opened its last New Zealand store, in Petone, more than 1000 people were waiting outside at 8am.

Opening of Kmart in Rotorua this morning. Photo/Stephen Parker
Opening of Kmart in Rotorua this morning. Photo/Stephen Parker

When the opening day was announced, NZTA transport system manager Rob Campbell said it would ensure an appropriate traffic management plan had been completed.

He said a traffic camera would be installed at the intersection outside the complex.

"This will allow the transport operations centre to monitor traffic flows and adjust the signals if necessary."

In a Facebook post yesterday the Rotorua Lakes Council said delays were expected in the areas around the shop.

"Traffic management will be in place during the weekend to direct motorists."

In the past three weeks the more than 100 new team members and a specialist team of shelf stockers have moved more than 50,000 items out of boxes, ready to be sold.

Kmart Rotorua was the first store opened by the retailer in New Zealand this year and more store announcements will follow.