The Hobbit film trilogy has helped a spending surge in the Matamata region by tourists from the likes of Australia, Germany, United Kingdom and North America.

The amount spent in the area by those tourists has risen at a greater magnitude over the past five years, relative to 2009 spending, than in any other region in New Zealand.

This trend is revealed in a visualisation of Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates created by Wellington’s Dragonfly Data Science.

The interactive shows the surge in spending in the Matamata-Piako area from European, English, Australian and North American tourists over the past the five years, relative to their 2009 spending.

In terms of raw figures, Australians spent $12.1 million in the area during the 12 months to March 2014, up 8.5 per cent on the year before. That compared to $3.7 million in the year to March 2009.

German visitors spent less than a million dollars in the region in 2009. This had jumped to $2.7 million during the 12 months to March 2014, according to MBIE estimates. Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, near Matamata, offers visitors the chance to peruse 44 hobbit holes and a working pub where parts of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy was shot.

Rise in German spending relative in Matamata-Piako relative to other areas

Hobbiton’s general manager Russell Alexander said the attraction was the only reason international tourists were coming to Matamata.

“That sounds blunt and arrogant but it’s the truth,” he said.

The final movie of the three-part adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s novel was released last December and was expected to provide a further boost to New Zealand tourism.

The Government, late last year, estimated that the value of The Hobbit films to local tourism was anywhere between $50 million and $500 million per year.

It builds on the success of the three Lord of the Rings movies, which were credited with making New Zealand a world leader in "film tourism".

Alexander said the growth in visitors to Hobbiton was “massive”.

About 360,000 people visited Hobbiton in the year to March, up from 232,000 in the same period in 2014 and 33,000 in 2011.

The venture had hired 92 new staff in the past three months and now employs more than 200 workers. Alexander didn’t believe Hobbiton’s popularity would wane with time given the trilogy had run its course.

“It’s going to grow, the brand is beyond the movies now. The movies were over a year ago and we don’t see it [visitor numbers] dropping off,” he said.

Explore the Regional Economic Activity report here

Thanks to MBIE and Dragonfly Data Science

Although the magnitude of growth over the past half a decade is stark, the $142 million spent in Matamata-Piako in the 12 months to March 2014 is only a tiny proportion of the $17.2 billion spent by both domestic and international tourists here last year.

Farmed land area falls

The area of Auckland land being farmed is 25 per cent less than just over a decade ago, likely because more is being used for housing.

Around 14.1 million hectares (ha) were farmed in this country in 2014, down from 15.6m ha in 2002, according to Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment data.

Across New Zealand, that’s a reduction of 9.3 per cent.

Auckland was leagues ahead of this nationwide average. Its 223,000 ha of farmland in 2014 was more than 25 per cent less than the 302,000 ha in 2002.

Canterbury, New Zealand’s largest farming region by geographic size, was also ahead of the curve with a 14 per cent decline over the 12 year period.

While 3.2m ha was farmed in the region 2002, this dropped to 2.7m ha in 2014.

ASB rural economist Nathan Penny believed the biggest contributor to the nationwide decline would be urbanisation.

“Particularly in somewhere like Auckland - think about a lot of the residential developments in South Auckland and north and west, a lot of them have come out of farmland,” Penny said.

In Canterbury, particularly post-earthquake, land was needed outside the city for housing in places like Rolleston and Rangiora.

“You’d imagine that’s where quite a bit of development has happened on what was previous rural or life-style block land,” Penny said.

While the area of land being farmed in rural strongholds like Waikato and Otago had dropped, the decline over the 12 years was smaller at 6.8 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively.

Car registrations bounce back

If the rise in the number of new or New Zealand-new cars being registered is an indicator of a region’s growth, then Grey District led the way in 2014.

Just over 460 cars were registered for the first time in the West Coast region last year, up 47 per cent on 2013. This number includes either new cars, or New Zealand new cars previously used overseas.

Growth was also strong in the Far North district of Kaipara, where the 475 new cars registered was up 46 per cent on 2013.

In the country’s more populated areas, growth was also strong.

In Auckland 103,000 new or New Zealand-new cars were registered, up 21 per cent on the year before. New Zealand’s largest city accounted for close to half of all the cars first registered in this country in 2014.

However, on a per-capita basis Christchurch had more new or New Zealand-new car registrations in the year. The Garden City had 731 new or New Zealand-new car registrations for every 10,000 people living there. This compared to 672 per 10,000 people in Auckland.