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Warbirds return: ‘Happy to see our friends back’

The Wānaka App

Sue Wards

27 March 2024, 4:06 PM

Warbirds return: ‘Happy to see our friends back’Campers woke to a chilly morning yesterday (Wednesday March 27) at the Albert Town campground. PHOTO: Wānaka App

More than 50,000 people are expected to attend the Warbirds Over Wānaka international airshow this Easter, and campervans and other vehicles have already begun to flood into Wānaka.

The airshow is returning after a six-year hiatus due to Covid-19 restrictions, and people will be travelling to Wānaka not only from around the country but also the world.

“The town has been really looking forward to having Warbirds back. It’s seen as one of the key community events which everybody celebrates,” Lake Wānaka Tourism general manager Tim Barke told the Wānaka App.

“A lot of people come from out of town and come back every year, it’s something of a reunion for people - but it’s been six years since the last one. I think the excitement’s been building for the last six years.”

Tim said it had been “pretty cool” to watch the aircraft returning to Wānaka’s skies.

“It’s great that the weather is looking pretty good for it, and we’re just happy to see our friends back after such a long break.”

“It’s also a cool celebration of the history that has helped develop the culture here. Sir Tim Wallis and others who were so innovative and led an era where deer recovery was a big part of this region,” he said, adding that the passion for the old aircraft and their restoration is part of that culture. 

“Also, remembering the people who used to fly them and didn’t come home.”

An economic boost

Tim said Warbirds is a stimulus event which brings people here for a longer holiday to make the most of what Wānaka offers. Regular visitors to Warbirds also build relationships in the area. 

“They do a lot of stuff while they’re here, they populate the restaurants and cafes,” he said.

Tourism boss Tim Barke says Warbirds is a “stimulus event” and an economic boost. PHOTO: Supplied

“From an economic perspective it’s a great injection into the economy before we head into winter.”

The flip side: traffic

Wānaka police said locals should expect traffic to be “manic” during Easter, and have advised drivers to be patient and plan ahead.

Read more: Crimeline: Fraud cases continue, ‘manic traffic’ expected

Mt Iron roundabout is complete except for landscaping. PHOTO: Supplied

Fortunately the new roundabout at Mt Iron Junction (a key entrance to Wānaka) is now operational with traffic flowing on all of its five legs. 

Work at the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) roundabout project at Riverbank and Ballantyne Roads will be paused for Easter, which will ease traffic along Riverbank Road.

QLDC will open the intersection of Ballantyne Road and Riverbank Road as normal from midday today (Thursday March 28) through to Tuesday (April 5). 

“During this time, the surface will be compacted gravel so maintenance crews will be on standby in case any upkeep is required. Drivers are asked to take it slow and follow all signage instructions,” Waka Kotahi media manager Frances Adank said.


The Tuesday after Easter (April 2) is Southland Anniversary Day so locals can expect to see plenty of travellers around Otago and Southland until then.