Wairoa Star, Wairoa East Coast by STUART NASH 01 Jun 2017
THERE really is only one story in town at the moment and it is an extremely positive one – the successful launch of Rocket Lab’s first rocket.
I am going to outline a possible future if things continue to go to plan for Peter Beck and his team. Of course ongoing success is by no means assured but the first major hurdle has been cleared. The Rocket Lab team now know that they have the knowledge and know-how to successfully launch a rocket.
What does this mean for Wairoa?
I think the best-case scenario will go something like this.
Initially, tourists will be attracted to the region to watch every launch. So accommodation providers and cafes will be the initial benefactors as these tourists require places to stay and eat.
It won’t be game-changing to start with as the launches aren’t consistently regular (and I haven’t spoken to Peter since the launch so I am unsure when he plans the next one).
As activity builds the company will require more people to be based in the region either permanently or on a long term basis. These employees will be earning decent money so they will end up purchasing white-ware, TVs, garden and building tools and all the other mod cons needed to set up a house and furnish a home. They will also spend money on goods and services located in the town thus driving growth in these secondary areas.
The government may be “required” to install a significantly higher level of internet and fibre infrastructure, which may well attract other individuals and industries that demand massive amounts of bandwidth in order to successfully connect with the world.
When Rocket Lab reaches its full potential of a launch a week, the township could be radically different.
At this stage there will possibly be some sort of assembly facility and sophisticated transport infrastructure required to service weekly launches. A mixture of tourism, Rocket Lab workers and clientele wanting to observe their payload heading skywards will drive demand for accommodation of all levels from backpackers through to extremely high-end places to stay. Cafes and restaurants will need to cater to a wide cross section of visitors and locals and there could be a significant increase in the accessing of all services.
Most importantly, the economy of Wairoa and the region will experience a level of diversity and resilience that will be welcome for all and especially the retailers, some who have done it hard over the last couple of years.
All in all, I don’t see any downsides for the town (except house prices may rise, especially at Mahia and Mahanga) if Peter’s dream is realised. But there is still a long way to go until this becomes a reality. However, there is no harm starting to plan for a future where Wairoa is slowly transformed from a small provincial town on the East Coast to a centre of excellence on every tourist’s list of must-visit places in New Zealand.