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Getting busier . . . Maniototo Business Group co-ordinator Morgan Grundy says Ranfurly and Naseby are becoming increasingly popular as places for people to live permanently. PHOTO: ALEXIA JOHNSTON

As accommodation prices remain high in areas such as Queenstown, Wanaka and Cromwell, people are moving further into the regions, meaning smaller towns like Ranfurly and Naseby are benefiting from the demand for housing, jobs and services. In the first of a three-part series looking at Central Otago’s smaller districts, Yvonne O’Hara talks to those reaping the benefits in the Maniototo.

More people are taking note of the Maniototo as rising costs in more expensive areas create knock-on benefits for towns like Ranfurly and Naseby, Maniototo Business Group co-ordinator Morgan Grundy says.

Miss Grundy said several businesses had opened or expanded in the Maniototo in the past few years and that meant a greater demand for staff and housing.

In addition, there were more tourists coming through, and that, combined with a longer tourism season, meant an increased need for short-term accommodation and services.

The Otago Central Rail Trail was bringing more visitors through the area, and its normal busy season, which used to be during summer, had lengthened from October through to March.

“The number of people coming through are huge,” Miss Grundy said.

“We need the services to support them and we have restaurants and the supermarket, but not necessarily the beds.”

Traditionally a lot of houses in Ranfurly, Naseby and surrounding areas were holiday homes, but a lot were now being sold as permanent residences, she said.

“There is a huge demand for real estate in Ranfurly.

“My parents moved down here eight years ago and then there were about 60 houses on the market.

“Now at the moment there are about 10, with about six open homes at the weekend, which for this area, was unheard of.

“Rent is so much cheaper here.  I am renting my three-bedroom home at $260 a week.”

Miss Grundy said many agricultural contractors were looking for staff, as were “tradies” who needed more apprentices, and there was a demand for skilled workers like mechanics and plumbers, as well as hospitality staff.

There was also the Maniototo Area School’s planned $6 million rebuild at the end of the year, “and trade contractors are looking for accommodation then”.

The requirement for some staff in different sectors to work weekends was an issue.

“On the other hand, the commute time to work is less than five minutes.”

Miss Grundy said longer-term accommodation was also tight.

“We had influx of people with the [recently opened LeoLabs Naseby] space radar, as the contractors have been around for that.”

Netflix is going to film Jane Campion’s Power of the Dog movie in Queenstown, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst, early next year and the contingent would also be spending time in Ranfurly and would require accommodation during the peak tourist season.

Tourism Central Otago digital media marketing officer Anthony Longman said the organisation was promoting areas like Maniototo as destinations during the seasonal shoulders to take advantage of the accommodation availability and to improve business and trail viability.

He said anecdotally Tourism Central Otago was seeing more people moving to the area and working remotely.

“They are operating their businesses from afar,” he said.

He said staffing was an issue for many businesses, including accommodation and hospitality, and they were looking for people who were keen to work in the region.

“As an organisation we want to support that development of employment opportunities and help businesses make sure they are sustainable with adequate staffing levels.”

Mr Longman said a proposed self-drive Central Otago Touring Route was being developed to encourage people to drive from Dunedin to Queenstown, through Maniototo and Strath Taieri, which would further add to visitor numbers for the area.

Maniototo photographer Janyne Fletcher said her photography business and gallery had become busier and she added a part-time staff member last year.

“There is a noticeable increase in foot traffic around Ranfurly township,” Ms Fletcher said.

“More people are moving into the area and it has been really positive for my business.

“I sell a lot of work to people doing the rail trail and to other types of visitors.”

She was seeing more visitors from the North Island, as well as more independent travellers in vehicles.

“There is a definite positive vibe around the community.”

Naseby Store owner Paul Bishop launched his Naseby Night Sky Tours business last year, providing trips to a farm to look at the night sky through telescopes.

He had significant interest in the tours, but his grocery shop was so busy during peak season in January, he was not able to take dark sky bookings at that time.

“I am selling the store so I can devote full time to the tours as that’s how much I believe it could grow.”

This year the number of tours he has run has increased, and each tour caters for between four and 10 people.