Jacinda Ardern pushes Te Aroha as next tourism hotspot

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put Te Aroha in the spotlight when she named her daughter after the township.

Now she's pushing for it to become a boutique health and wellbeing spa, using the success of nearby Hobbiton to promote the area.

The Lord of the Rings film set and tourist attraction will be gaining a famous new citizen soon: Tolkien fan and late night host Stephen Colbert.

"He does need to come to Hobbiton to get it," Ms Ardern says.

It's not just Colbert she wants visiting Middle-earth, but more tourists in general.

The Government has injected just $1.7 million from its $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund into the Waikato region.

"The offering here from a tourism perspective is first-class," Ms Ardern says of Hobbiton. "It is absolutely fantastic. The question is: how can we leverage off that for the rest of the district?"

It's been almost 20 years to the day since Hollywood came knocking on the door of the farmer who owns the now-famous land.

On Thursday, Ms Ardern pushed it as a success story for tourism in the Waikato - and she wants her daughter's namesake town to share in Hobbiton's spotlight.

Te Aroha's natural springs are seen as untapped tourist potential, making the township ideal for a "boutique health and wellbeing destination".

Matamata Mayor Jan Barnes says Te Aroha is the "hidden secret" of the Waikato.

"Yes, we go to Rotorua. But this is the hot water soda geyser, and it sits right in under the mountain."

Te Aroha is being cast as the next centre of New Zealand tourism - just without the big Hollywood budget.