Bil­beau Wag­gins har­nesses Hob­bit love

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By NI­COLA STEWART

Grand open­ing Satur­day, Novem­ber 30 10am - 2pm South end Rail­side by the Green First there was Hob­biton, then there was the Gate­house, and now Mata­mata has another Lord of the Rings tourism draw­card un­der its belt.

Lo­cal Zea Marks is launch­ing a Tolkien­themed horse and car­riage busi­ness called Bil­beau Wag­gins this Satur­day.

The for­mer track worker will of­fer 15 minute rides through Cen­ten­nial Drive to tourists Tues­day through Satur­day, as well as half-price rides to lo­cals.

‘‘ I think it’s quite unique,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s not an ev­ery­day op­por­tu­nity peo­ple have any­more.’’

The busi­ness will be based at the south end of Rail­side by the Green to make the most of foot traf­fic from tourist buses.

‘‘The tourism com­ing here is based around The Lord of the Rings and Hob­biton so I think that’s the ad­van­tage we have,’’ said Zea, who will drive the car­riage dressed in hob­bit at­tire.

The con­cept for Bil­beau Wag­gins was first thought up two years ago in a carpark out­side some mar­kets in Tau­ranga.

Zea was run­ning a wed­ding car­riage busi­ness in the Bay of Plenty and had taken some friends for a ride to the mar­kets.

‘‘ The amount of peo­ple that came up to me and asked if I was giv­ing rides was amaz­ing.

‘‘I thought: ‘Wow, I should think of mov­ing into tourism.’’’

Af­ter meet­ing with Jan Barnes, who was deputy mayor at the time, and Mata­mata Pub­lic Re­la­tions As­so­ci­a­tion man­ager Sue Whit­ing, she de­cided it was the way to go.

‘‘I sold my busi­ness and I rein­vested in a big­ger car­riage and a big­ger horse.’’

Zea spent the next two years plan­ning, work­ing out the sched­ules of tourist buses, and train­ing her new horse Honey.

Fol­low­ing pre­sen­ta­tions to coun­cil, Rail­side by the Green and the Cen­ten­nial Drive Com­mit­tee, she was per­mit­ted the use of pub­lic land for one year.

‘‘There was just 100 per cent sup­port,’’ she said

‘‘Ev­ery­one thought it was a fan­tas­tic idea.’’

Lo­cal horse trainer Wayne Hil­lis came on as a busi­ness part­ner and there are plans to ex­pand the out­fit in the next few years.

Zea, who is adamant Bil­beau Wag­gins will ben­e­fit the com­mu­nity, has signed up to rep­re­sent the lo­cal Red Cross at this year’s Santa Pa­rade.

Lo­cals are in­vited to ride in the car­riage year round for half price, pro­vid­ing they have proof of ad­dress and ID. It will also be avail­able for func­tions and wed­dings.

See bil­beauwag­gins. co.nz

Photo: PAUL SUTHER­LAND

Old world ex­pe­ri­ence: Cen­ten­nial Drive Com­mit­tee chair­man David Daw­son, i-SITE man­ager Mem­o­rie Brooky, coun­cil­lor Leonie Tisch and mayor Jan Barnes were the first to take a ride. Also pic­tured are own­ers Zea Marks and Wayne Hil­lis, stand­ing.

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