Visiting foreign yachties are pumping $25 million into Northland's economy a year, according to a recent New Zealand study.
But the Enterprise Northland survey also found that figure could be higher still if the marinas at Whangarei and Opua were improved - with better dredging and channel marking top of the wish-list in Whangarei, and public transport in Opua.
The $25 million annual spend-up goes well beyond the marine industry and includes spending on accommodation, cafes and supermarkets - but does not include building or refitting boats more than 20 metres.
This season more than 150 overseas yachts visited Whangarei while a further 100 visited Opua.
The surveyed yachties said they wanted more dredging of the approaches to Whangarei and improved Hatea River channel markers.
Dennis Maconaghie, chairman of the Northland Marine Development Group, agreed the channel needed regular dredging and that proper navigational aids were important.
John Halse, of Enterprise Northland, said both the Whangarei District and the Northland Regional Councils had allocated funding to these areas.
While Whangarei was the main commercial port for Northland, the harbour had an ongoing dredging programme - but with the main port now at Marsden Pt, Whangarei could silt up.
Opua-based yachties called for public transport to Paihia, 5km away.
Mr Halse said ideas 'were being tossed around' with a shuttle service one of the options.
The survey found that the key to boosting business was making sure overseas yachties kept coming back. With boats getting bigger, Northland had to keep providing better, larger facilities and lifting standards of customer service.
Mr Maconaghie said while the study focused on yachties' financial contribution, it was also worth acknowledging the international flavour they brought to Northland - especially to Whangarei's Town Basin.
The survey found yachties' main reasons for coming to New Zealand included a desire to see the country, avoiding the October-May cyclone season in the Pacific, and the country's good reputation for repairs, maintenance and refits.
Most foreign yachties coming to Northland were from the US, Canada, Europe and Britain.
They chose Northland for the proximity and availability of marine services, as well as the convenient location. One in four had visited Northland more than once in the previous five years, and 57 per cent were likely to stay for five to seven months.
Two-thirds of their spending was in Whangarei, where their total spending on boat maintenance this season was about $4.5 million.
Yachties rated Northland's mooring and refitting facilities 4.5 out of five and also commented on the region's friendly and helpful people. Their dealings with Government departments - Customs, Immigration and Agriculture - were also positive, but some dealings with Northland marine businesses fell short of expectations.
Mr Halse said the survey was the first to take a snapshot of the views of visiting yachties.
'What has emerged is that that Whangarei and Opua have different and complementary strengths. There are opportunities for both ports to work together, and also to refine the way that they are promoted.'
The Northland Marine Development Group commissioned the survey.
More at www.enterprisenorthland.co.nz