The renaissance of Bluff

The southernmost town on mainland New Zealand is set to have a “renaissance”, with a small group of locals behind a fresh push to show visitors there is more to Bluff than Stirling Point and Stewart Island.

The group of five people behind the push is hoping to create a new collection of attractions for Bluff, with several of the plans set to take shape by the end of the year.

The main plan is to create a central arts hub in the CBD, on the Gore Street block between Lee and Palmer Streets, that will include a new cafe, museum, visitor centre, art gallery and radio station.

Local business owner Cherie Chapman is one of the members of the as-yet unnamed group, and said the plan was part of a push to keep visitors in the town for “longer than 20 minutes”.

She said with the majority of tourists coming through Bluff either heading to Stirling Point to get a photo at the sign or getting a boat to Stewart Island, it was important to try and create attractions that would keep visitors in the town for longer.

“We do get a lot of tourists down to Bluff. People estimate around 150,000 a year. They also estimate around 70,000 go across to Stewart Island a year… so the goal for us is to create a place, a desire, to stop and have a really cool experience, some good coffee and some alternative food.”

Mrs Chapman will run a new visitor centre in the hub, which will provide tourists with a booking outlet and information services as well as running regular art exhibitions.

There will also be a new café on site next to the visitor centre, run by group member Bridget O’Sullivan, as well as a newly renovated Oyster All Sorts Museum and small cinema.

Mrs Chapman said they would also hire out electric bikes – believed to be the first time they have been available in Bluff – with all planned to be up and running by the end of October.

Internationally-renowned artist Caley Hall will run the art gallery, which he has recently opened in the town’s old butcher shop, with plans to create a larger gallery with a variety of collections.

Mr Hall said he had been looking for a location for a new gallery and Bluff had turned into a perfect location.

“Bluff is attracting some really positive go ahead people…it’s sort of a new lease on life from the centre of Bluff. People will be able to stop here.”

He also recently secured a licence to run a new radio station, to be called Foveaux Radio after obtaining the copyright for the former Foveaux FM.

The station is currently in test mode on 104.4FM, and Mr Hall said he hoped it would be up and running fully by the end of the year.

The remaining group members, Noel Peterson and Gavin Martin, have also been actively promoting their plans, with Mr Peterson set to join the Bluff Community Board and advocate for funding to help further with plans.

Mr Martin, meanwhile, plans to introduce a zipline attraction traversing a 1.3km course from the wind turbines overlooking the town to the waterfront.

He said it would be one of the largest ziplines in New Zealand.

“It will be a new ride so they start at the bottom and they’ll be flown up. So there will be motors on it so they’ll be flown up to the top and then come back down. It gives you an opportunity to look out over Stewart Island and everything.”

Mr Martin said it would be open by summer next year, with the project currently in the resource consent phase.

The group said they were working closely with other community groups, including the Bluff Community Board and Bluff Promotions, and hoped their entire vision would well and truly be realised in the next five years.

“For me this is about creating a really vibrant Bluff,” Mrs Chapman said.

“It’s vibrant now and it’s amazing here already and I love it. Let’s make it even more vibrant than it is.”

This article was originally written for The Advocate. You can read the published version here

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