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Going ahead . . . This weekend's Waimate Shears is the only one of Waimate's "Big Three" late year events that has not been cancelled due to Covid-19. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

by Chris Tobin

Waimate has taken a hit with two of its most popular public events cancelled due to Covid-19, but Mayor Craig Rowley says the town is booming, with people even shifting from Auckland to live there.

“I’ve spoken to two to three families in recent weeks who have shifted to Waimate from Auckland,” Mr Rowley said.

“They’re in the 35 to 45 age group.

“We’re seeing quite a lift in people from elsewhere in the country seeing us as a destination. People are looking to shift to have more balance in their lives.”

Waimate real estate agent Ruth Burke said with Covid-19 there had been a greater awareness among people in big cities of what was on offer in provincial New Zealand.

“I’ve sold a few to people from Auckland and had some down this week looking at properties.”

However, interest had been shown from all around the country, not just Auckland.

The incentive for these people was the chance to retire early without a mortgage and the opportunity to buy a lifestyle block with cash to spare, she said.

“It went nuts when we could get out [after lockdown].”

In the month to July 20, 24 properties sold in the district.

Waimate had a large number of listings this time last year but fewer were coming forward now as people waited to see where Covid-19 could go, which was part of a nationwide trend.

At present, sought-after Waimate properties were being sold within days of hitting the market.

Mr Rowley said three new business premises had opened in the town over the past six months. These included a new bakery in the former ANZ bank building on the corner of High and Queen Sts, which has been remodelled by businessman Gary Rooney.

Mr Rooney’s company, Rooney Holdings, built and opened a new medical centre in the main street, Queen St, and redeveloped the Waimate Hotel, just over the road from the ANZ building, last year.

His company planned other main-street developments and has bought the old Quinn’s Arcade.

“With the new Waimate hotel, a lot of people are coming into Waimate,” Mr Rowley said.

“It’s just fantastic. There’s a revitalisation in the town.”

He understood why organisers of both the Waimate 50 and Strawberry Fare cancelled this year’s events.

“It’s very disappointing that they cannot proceed, but we’ve still got the AP show and other events.”

On August 18, organisers of the 2020 Waimate 50 Motorsport Festival, which was scheduled for Labour Weekend, October 26-27, and was expected to bring an estimated $1million into Waimate and surrounding areas, said it had been cancelled due to Covid-19 “and the associated uncertainty that we are all facing at this time”.

“We will look towards re-emerging in 2021 when the world has hopefully sorted itself out,” they said on their Facebook page.

Last week the organisers of the annual Strawberry Fare, due to be held on December 12, decided to cancel.

“After a review of the consequences of a change in Covid alert levels immediately leading up to the fare, it was clear the impact of a forced cancellation could have a far-reaching impact on the organisation’s finances,” fare chairwoman Joy McIvor said.

“We are an independent not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers. By focusing on the future viability of the event, we believe we are acting in the best interest of all stakeholders.”

Waimate’s other big late-year event, the Waimate Shears, starts tomorrow and runs through to Sunday. Organisers said cancellation of the New Zealand Merino Shears in Alexandra and the New Zealand Agricultural Show in Christchurch because of Covid-19 restrictions had given the event added significance and strong entries had been received.

With the Christchurch show cancelled, the New Zealand Corriedale Shearing and Woolhandling Championships will go ahead at the Marble Point Station woolshed near Hanmer Springs.