A new lodge will cater for growing tourist numbers in the small republic of Whangamomona.
Stratford Mayor Neil Volzke and Whangamomona president John Herlihy cut a white ribbon to officially declare the Whangamomona Hotel's new development open last Tuesday.
More than 300 people have already stayed at the The Lodge — a building behind the hotel which opened for business in December.
Whangamomona Hotel owner Richard Pratt says The Lodge is the first new building to be established in more than 50 years in Whangamomona and is the extension of the town's hotel, which he owns along with wife Vicki.
The new lodge features five rooms, each with its own bathroom. They have plans to further develop the site and have consent to add on another wing with four rooms next year.
Richard says he felt strongly about the tourism sector and building the lodge was helping future-proof the town which has 25,000 visitors per year.
"We have had a steady increase in numbers of tourists and more and more people are getting off the beaten track, so this is the ideal destination."
Richard says that a high percentage of people just stay for one night, but he would like people to start staying longer — through opening up other tourism opportunities like walking and biking tracks around the town.
He has owned the hotel for the past five years after they moved to the town.
"It's been an awesome journey and this is part of that excitment and it's certainly something that will be around forever."
During the opening, Whangamomona president John Herlihy congratulated Richard and Vicki on the development. He says that a man said to him years a go that one day Whanga will come right again and it will be a booming little town.
"He told me the story two or three times and now I have to agree that it's improving and there's more tourists — sometimes too many tourists — but they are coming in anyway so we have to cater for them.
"You wouldn't think it's viable in a small town like this, but it's good for the community."
John has lived in Whangamomona for nearly 25 years which he says makes him just about a local. He says it is good to see the town go ahead.
"The village is looking pretty tidy now."