Rugby World Cup boosts spending in Whangārei

Whangarei waterfront flags for Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup flags along the waterfront in Whangārei.
Photo: RNZ / Sam Olley

Some Whangārei businesses are the busiest they’ve been since pre-Covid times – thanks to the Rugby World Cup.

The Black Ferns face off against Wales in the quarter-final tonight in the city.

Hospitality, accommodation and retail staff are preparing for another influx of fans, after three busy weekends of pool matches hosted in Te Tai Tokerau.

Tickets have been starting at $5 for children and $10 for adults.

By Wednesday night 13,500 had sold for today, excluding another 2000 people expected in corporate boxes.

The Butter Factory bar and bistro has been so popular that owner Luke Revell has opened a second venue upstairs for the tournament.

He told RNZ revenue from meals was “way up”.

“On average, our food sales are up about 30, between 30 and 50 percent, depending on the night.”

Revell has played the games through huge screens and speakers, and flags line the walls and ceilings in the bar.

The Butter Factory in Whangārei

The Butter Factory bar and bistro is hosting fans and teams.
Photo: RNZ / Sam Olley

Staff like Jacqui Edwards have had the thrill of catering for not only rugby supporters – but many of the players themselves – including the entire Fijian team.

“It is very, very humbling to be quite honest. They’re just such lovely people. And then on other days, we’ll have like six or eight of all the different teams. And plus their liaison managers in Whangārei, so that’s been really, really good.”

While the Northland Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have an exact financial forecast, president Tim Robinson said the cup was putting millions into the city’s economy.

“Hospitality and accommodation are having an absolute ball of a time which is fantastic.”

The upturn is finally an exciting change from pandemic-related lulls, he said.

“People, for the first time really in two and a half years are actually feeling confident to go out, and just spend time out and about. And I think certainly we’ve noticed a lot of it here in retail.”

Fans young and old are counting down to kickoff – including Whangārei mum Nina Cameron.

Her son has been a ball boy in pool matches so far, and has “absolutely loved it”.

“He thinks women’s rugby is just the best, yeah he’s thriving,” she said.

Northlander Portia Woodman’s whānau were thousands of kilometres away when the women’s sevens team won Olympic gold last year.

Black Ferns Portia Woodman and Stacey Fluhler.

Black Ferns Portia Woodman and Stacey Fluhler
Photo: RNZ / Samantha Olley

But at this pinnacle event, she’s delighted to be home seeing family in the stands.

“All of Ngāpuhi are coming down,” she joked at a press conference on Thursday.

The weather is expected to be drizzly today, with a high of 23C in Whangārei.

The quarter-final between France and Italy will be at 4.30pm and then the Black Ferns and Wales face off at 7.30pm.

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