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'Chocka' day on Stewart Island as Pacific Pearl cruise ship leads to busiest day


A southern leader says he wouldn't mind seeing more big ships arriving after the most passengers ever to visit Stewart Island at one time visited on Sunday.

Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Board chair Jon Spraggon​ said about 1500 passengers from the cruise ship MV Pacific Pearl spent a day on Stewart Island on Sunday, making it the most passengers to visit the island at one time. 

Then number is almost four times more than Stewart Island's normal population of 378, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Spraggon said the majority of visitors stayed in and around Oban after the 247-metre vessel anchored about a mile off Halfmoon Bay.

Chocka day on Stewart Island"Cash-wise, it pumped a lot into the economy."

Spraggon said he wouldn't mind seeing more large ships visit the island.

"Personally I think two a year might be enough of that size."

Southland Regional Harbourmaster Kevin O'Sullivan​ said the island could probably handle more visits from big ships. I think we could cope with several times a year."

O'Sullivan said the Pacific Pearl had more passengers than Holland America's 1432-passenger MS Volendam,  the ship that previously brought the most visitors to the island. 

​"It didn't particularly feel overcrowded. They were really keen to sample what Stewart Island had to offer."

O'Sullivan said the Pacific Pearl was not due to visit again until March 2017, and no similar-sized ships were scheduled to visit before then.

Four Square Supermarket co-owner Jill Skerret​ said the arrival of the ship and sunny weather made for a "perfect storm" at her shop.

"We had a chocka shop for about four hours."

At the South Seas Hotel, a staffer said that, while things were busy, they didn't run out of local seafood despite the crush of visitors.

"It was good. Blue cod, oysters, mussels and chowder was what they all liked."

According to Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts, cruise ships pumped $436 million into New Zealand's economy in the 2014-15 season and supported 8365 jobs.

P&O Cruises Australia - which owns the Pacific Pearl - president Sture Myrmell​ said a visit by a ship like the Pacific Pearl helped local economies.

"Not only will guests and crew be busy spending money in each port, P&O is buying fresh produce from local suppliers throughout Pacific Pearl's New Zealand season, injecting more money into the local community," he said.

"Each cruise requires significant quantities of food - for example, on a 10-day cruise for guests and crew the ship will take on about 300kg of fresh local fish, 3000 dozen eggs, and around 30,000kg of fruits and vegetables."