3000 expected for Spring Challenge in Hokitika

By Janna Sherman

About 3000 athletic visitors will swell the Hokitika population in September as the largest Spring Challenge field yet descends on the town.
The women’s team adventure race, which combines mountainbiking with rafting, hiking and navigation in a series of either three, six or nine-hour courses, is almost at capacity.
Organiser Nathan Faavae said at least 350 teams of three, or 1050 people, had so far registered for the event, which would be capped at 1100, making it the largest field so far in the eight years the event has been running.
Mr Faavae said teams were traditionally capped at 330. However, the Hokitika course reached that limit early on, with spaces left only in the shortest course.
A further 20-30 teams were also on a waiting list.
“Because of the demand we have extended the field a bit but we are close to the maximum we can cater for. All up, with supporters and crew, it is about 3000 people to manage, which starts to put a bit of pressure on our logistics.”
A venue large enough for a prizegiving function was still to be found. Accommodation for the weekend was also filling fast, with most of the central backpackers, hotels and motels full, he said.
Hokitika i-Site travel co-ordinator Shona Marshall said they had been taking bookings on behalf of the organisers as soon as registrations opened. “The day they opened we were inundated. Most people had thought beforehand and got all the holiday homes,” Mrs Marshall said.
Group accommodation options were still sought after, with a minimum booking of three up to 14 including support crew.
“Most of them want to stay in their teams and many are looking for private houses. I have let out quite a few now, probably more than during the Wildfoods. The town will be booming.”
As well as accommodation providers, business owners are also looking forward to the influx.
Central Business Retail group chairman Barry Wilson said its ‘Love Hokitika’ sub-committee had been working with organisers for marketing opportunities. A market day was also planned for the September 26 weekend.
The timing was “perfect” — still a month out from the tourist season picking up again, Mr Wilson said.
“It can only be good for us.”
Spring Challenge is expected to pump in at least $1 million into the Hokitika economy.
Mr Faavae said community groups also stood to benefit.
“We do usually get community groups to help out with marshalling and car parking and some of the logistical jobs we need a bit of manpower for on the day.”
In return, they were given a donation.
Mr Faavae said he had been in contact with some volunteers who he expected to meet with in another Hokitika visit next week.
Some “fine tuning” of the course routes would also be done, however the majority had now been mapped out.
Mr Faavae said details of the routes always remained under wraps until the night before and he would only hint that the start line could be up to an hour away from Hokitika.
The new West Coast Wilderness Trail could also be incorporated in the course, he said.