Methven like many other rural towns in New Zealand, is constantly evolving. Over the years our town has enjoyed both boom and bust, good times and bad.
Between 1871 and 1976, it was the terminus of the Rakaia-Methven railway, was famous for its sheep and grain. The town prospered, attracting businesses and people to service these industries. The emergence of large agencies centralising their services, made easy by the introduction of electricity and motor vehicles, saw the decline of rural hubs such as Methven.
The establishment of Mt Hutt Ski Field in the 1970’s, saw Methven adapt into a ‘ski village’ attracting different people and businesses, whilst still supporting the local farming communities. Accommodation, stores and food outlets thrived, providing all the necessary facilities and services to the thousands of visiting tourists during the short winter season.
Farming has been changing, our tourists are changing, the weather is changing, it’s a matter for all business owners to accept and adapt or hang up their apron and move on. Empty stores is an indication that Methven has experienced decline for some time but we are not alone, Ashburton’s main street is looking a little empty of retailers too. Whilst there are many reasons for businesses to close, there are obvious issues in Methven, which will need addressing but equally there are positive ways for business owners to re-
engage and attract new custom.
I spoke with Bruce Moffat, General Manager, Experience Mid Canterbury and he is optimistic about the future, he said, “Tourism is a 24/7/365 business, visitor numbers are growing and Mid Canterbury attracted $128m last year, tapping into that is key and then maximizing on ways to increase it. Our main markets are still Australia, now closely followed by China and as the Chinese become comfortable with New Zealand as a safe place to visit, they are stepping off the tour buses and taking longer vacations here in smaller
groups with family and friends.”
Bruce said, “We are actively promoting the district, Methven and the Inland Scenic Route are very important features.” He was clear in his advice that Methven businesses should now be looking at two seasons, winter and summer. Many of our businesses are already taking action, once closed outside the winter season, they are now adapting to embrace summer, providing activities and services, trying to attract the fair-weather tourists to our town.
Communication is key, if you have a story, a product, a skill, a talent, SHARE it. It doesn’t have to be major, if you are offering a new product or combination of existing products, tell everyone about it. Bruce used, as an example, the story of a Canterbury business, maximizing on the realization that Dutch and German tourists love travelling in motorhomes, he has marketed his business accordingly and is now very busy.
We have it all here already, the scenery, the lakes, the activities, services, accommodation, its not a new idea but now really is the time for businesses to come together, share their ideas, work towards a unified strategy and make Methven a destination place.