At a time when small towns around New Zealand are feeling the impact of yet another lost service – most recently Westpac bank – Matamata’s story is a heartening one.
The town is busy and business is good. Better still, Matamata seems to have retained a strong sense of community, which is shown by the fundraising project for Pohlen Hospital.
True the Hobbiton tourist extravaganza fell into the town’s lap which has given Matamata a real X factor in terms of profile. Most towns around New Zealand would kill for a similar device to attract visitors and Matamata’s opportunity came about through sheer luck. The challenge for the future will be to ensure the visitors stay long enough in the town to make a meaningful difference to its economy.
But we shouldn’t forget that it is still the traditional industries such as dairying and thoroughbred breeding that play a vital part in the life of Matamata. These remain very much the heart and soul of the district.
And like a lot of provincial New Zealand, the town is starting to benefit from well off Kiwis leaving the rat race and looking for a better lifestyle in the country. This is a heartening trend. New Zealand can’t be truly successful long-term with a mega Auckland and a denuded heartland. Lets hope that the drift back to the provinces creates enough momentum to encourage more investment and a reinstatement of many of the services eroded in recent decades.