The Len Lye Centre pumped $7.4m into the New Plymouth economy last year and brings in more people than Womad and the annual garden festival, a new report reveals.
A recent report published by Business and Economic Research Limited (Berl) found 34,400 people visited the centre in 2016 – 17,100 of them from outside the region and 3200 from overseas.
In comparison 12,400 visitors attended Womad 2017 and 4300 visitors came to the province for the Taranaki Garden Festival last year.
The report also said the visitors spent $7.4 million on accommodation, meals, transport, shopping and entertainment and this helped to generate $5.6m in GDP. The spend was the equivalent of 103 full-time jobs.
New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom said while controversial, it was clear the Len Lye Centre was generating a positive profile for Taranaki, creating employment and delivering economic benefits.
“It’s positive to note the Berl report’s finding that the LLC is generating $7.4 million in visitor spend with Taranaki businesses, directly and indirectly creating around 100 jobs in New Plymouth in the process,” Holdom said.
“Like it or loathe it, the LLC is a magnificent looking piece of architecture and reflects our vision of building a lifestyle capital. Locally, it’s the cultural hub of our district for all ages, providing education programmes for young and old, a wide range of films as well as being a popular venue for corporate hosting.”
However, outspoken New Plymouth councillor and Len Lye critic John McLeod said he didn’t think it was the centre or regional events attracting visitors.
“[The] majority of our tourists are here for our natural environment, not these things,” McLeod said.
“Take a five minute drive and you’re out of the city, at the sea.”
He said the “sea, mountain, and snow” were also attracting people to move to the region.
Although the King and Queen Hotel Suites have visitors who come to stay to visit the Len Lye Centre, they also have visitors who have no idea what it is.
Daniel Fleming, the general manager of the hotel, said the centre is one of the many reasons people came to the region but if people asked what it was, or what to do in Taranaki, hotel staff would send them to the centre.
“Whether they enjoy the architecture, art, or both, they love it.”
New Plymouth councillor Stacey Hitchcock said she didn’t think the Len Lye, and Womad and Garden festival should be compared to each other, but wasn’t surprised by the visitor numbers.
“It was the report that we expected, we knew it [the Len Lye Centre] was successful.”
Hitchcock said it was nice to see the good economic impact, since that was something that was hard to monitor.
“It’s great to have facts and figures,” she said. “It’s a real plus for the community as a whole.”
The research found half of the visitors came from Taranaki – 45 per cent were New Plymouth locals and 5 per cent from the Taranaki region – while 40 per cent were New Zealand visitors and 10 per cent were international travellers.
The report showed centre was a hit with locals with 82 per cent of respondents from New Plymouth rating it as very good or good and 85 per cent of those from outside the district rating the art gallery as very good.
The architect who worked on the Len Lye Centre recently received the highest individual honour an architect can receive in New Zealand.
Andrew Patterson was awarded the 2017 Gold Medal by the New Zealand Institute of Architects.
Patterson is the youngest recipient to ever receive this award and was given in recognition for the outstanding and continued contribution he has made to the built environment across our country.