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100 feral cats caught in Queenstown Lakes' Rees Valley, group steps up trapping efforts
100 feral cats caught in Queenstown Lakes' Rees Valley, group steps up trapping efforts

05 July 2024, 8:29 PM

Feral cats are causing the deaths of countless native taonga, conservationists say.The apex predators are different to purring pet moggies or strays. They can weigh up to 7kg and feed on everything.Multiple groups are working together to try to tackle the problem in the Queenstown Lakes area, but say they are working in often challenging terrain against smart and deadly predators.Matukituki Charitable Trust is working to clear predators from valleys in Mount Aspiring National Park.Trustee Gillian Crombie said one feral cat had managed to escape the trust's traps twice."There was nothing wrong with the trap, but it was just so big and so strong, it just broke right out of it," Crombie said.The group's contractors used live traps between May and July."Honestly, they're wild. You do not want to touch the trap with bare hands while they're in it. They will do some damage to your hands," she said."You need leather gloves and sometimes even that's not enough."A still photo from a Kea Conservation Trust monitoring camera in the South Island. PHOTO: Supplied/Kea Conservation TrustThe trust is part of the Southern Lakes Sanctuary Trust - a collaboration of local groups trying to protect and restore declining biodiversity.The sanctuary's planning manager Katrina Black said the groups were working to trap and remove predators in urban and remote terrain."We're doing it through farmland, braided rivers, native forest, up in to the national parks, right up into the sub-alpine and alpine environments as well and we're finding feral cats thorough out the whole region," Black said."There's nowhere where we do our work where we don't have feral cats."When group members started trapping at Mount Creighton Station, they spotted about five cats on their cameras.Across 20 nights, they trapped 37 feral cats using 10 live capture traps along a 1km to 2km stretch of Lake Whakatipu."Our minds were blown that that was the number of cats that were in that area," she said."That really shows us the scale of the issue that we're dealing with."Last year, they caught about 100 cats in the Rees Valley.It was disheartening to find similar numbers of cats through monitoring a year later, but they were determined to keep doing the mahi and clear them out, especially as the valley was a potential site for takahē release, she said.Group members would be expanding their efforts this year, she said.Department of Conservation (DOC) Whakatipu operations manager David Butt said feral cats could be found from 2000 metres altitude right down to sea level."They're really trap adverse so they won't go into traps. They roam for long distances so they can be hard to find so they're very difficult, time intensive to actually catch," he said.DOC used a mix of permanent kill traps and live trapping with a variety of baits including rabbit distress calls and crayfish carcasses, he said.In 2020-21, DOC tagged and monitored a group of kea.A still photo from a Kea Conservation Trust monitoring camera in the South Island. PHOTO: Supplied/Kea Conservation TrustKea Conservation Trust chair Tamsin Orr-Walker said what happened showed how much damage feral cats could do as they targeted adult kea and their young."Feral cats reduced adult kea survival in eastern ecosystems - so those are the drier ecosystems east of the divide - to less than 60 percent," she said."That's actually a catastrophic event and we know that that hasn't just been an isolated event."Kea were long-lived and slow to breed so they needed a high survival rate to bolster their population, Orr-Walker said.She wanted urgent action to tackle the problem including adding feral cats to Predator Free 2050."This is just about recognising that we can not have a large, obligate carnivore species that's incredibly efficient at killing our native wildlife in our ecosystems. It's an absolute disaster and we need to be taking it seriously."Otago Regional Council environmental implementation manager Libby Caldwell said the council supported the sanctuary's work and had given it funding previously."Community-led biodiversity and biosecurity work is critical to helping to protect and enhance the environment and we thank the community in their efforts to support achieving joint objectives to see biodiversity and ecosystems thrive."Feral cats are only included in the Otago Regional Pest Management Plan 2019-2029 for particular site-led programmes.Those include programmes on the Otago Peninsula, the West Harbour - Mt Cargill area, and Quarantine and Goat Islands."Site-led programmes seek to manage additional pests to avoid, mitigate or prevent damage to the indigenous ecosystem values at specific sites," Caldwell said.The regional council's role in those programmes was advocacy, education and collaboration, she said.

Queenstown Airport ‘buzzing’
Queenstown Airport ‘buzzing’

05 July 2024, 5:06 PM

The snow has arrived with perfect timing and Queenstown Airport is buzzing, airport COO Todd Grace says.About 230,000 passenger movements (arrivals and departures) per month are expected in July and August.A slightly lower number of about 206,000 are expected in September. Australian families have already been flying in for their school holidays and another surge is expected with the start of New Zealand school holidays today (Saturday July 6).“The terminal is full, but we love welcoming people for winter holidays, and we’re well-prepared,” Todd said.The airport is expecting 230,000 passenger movements in July and the same number in August.Because the holidays are more spread out there will not be such a concentrated peak of passenger movements, he said.Todd said the airport expected another influx of people for Winter Pride (August 22) and the Snow Machine Festival (which will run for four days in early September).Todd said Queenstown Airport was currently tackling some projects and trials to improve the customer experience, including changes to passenger processing, baggage claim and security screening.Border agencies are trialling a change to passenger processing for passengers arriving from Australia, with the introduction of a biosecurity screening point before baggage collection which has reduced queuing and sped up processing times.The trial will continue until July 31 to test it with peak passenger numbers and, if that goes smoothly, the new procedures are likely to become permanent, Todd said.Screens in the baggage claim areas now advise when the first and last bags from a flight have been put on the conveyor belt to get rid of “the guesswork for passengers”, he said.A fourth passenger screening lane with improved screening technology has been installed, which allows travellers to leave laptops, iPads and other large electronics in their bags.PHOTOS: Supplied

Avalanche forecasting begins for backcountry users
Avalanche forecasting begins for backcountry users

05 July 2024, 5:04 PM

NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC) is encouraging backcountry users to get ‘avalanche ready’ as snowfall increases and the ski season gets into full swing.New Zealand's official backcountry avalanche forecasting service, the NZ Avalanche Advisory (NZAA), has begun its forecasting for the winter season.The NZAA provides vital information to help backcountry users plan their trip and make safe decisions in avalanche terrain, MSC chief executive Mike Daisley said. “Our team of forecasters are starting regional forecasting to ensure that backcountry skiers and snowboarders can begin building a picture of the conditions in the backcountry, which will help them venture out safely.” Southwesterlies across New Zealand have contributed to the coldest May since 2009, setting up most of New Zealand's alpine regions with good levels of snow for the beginning of the snow season.“With recent snowfall, slopes are accumulating enough snow to reach threshold, meaning avalanches are possible,” Mike said. For those planning to head out into the backcountry this winter, now is the time to make sure you are prepared. “Before you go into the backcountry, ensure you have checked the avalanche forecast on the NZAA website, you’ve got the training through an avalanche skills course, and you're equipped with the essential gear and know how to use it.“This includes an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe.”  “Staying safe in the backcountry requires considered planning, having the right skills and informed decision-making.” The NZAA provides forecasting across all 13 winter regions including Wānaka, Aspiring and Queenstown.Visit the website here.PHOTO: Supplied

Construction to begin on lakefront development near marina
Construction to begin on lakefront development near marina

04 July 2024, 5:06 PM

Work on stage five of the Wānaka Lakefront Development Plan (LDP) will begin this month.It is the penultimate stage of the development of Wānaka’s lakefront, which began with construction of stage one at the Mount Aspiring Road car park in 2018.Stage five will complement the already completed stages of the LDP, Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) community services general manager Ken Bailey said.“Stage five will feature an extension to the 2.5 metre shared pathway Te Ara Wānaka that weaves along the lakefront, with the new sections running alongside the bank between Lakeside Road and the marina and yacht club, before connecting with the start of the Eely Point lakeside trail,” he said.“Given this location plays host to plenty of vehicles, boats, and trailers throughout the year, the formalised pathway will keep people safe when moving through the area, while helping to maintain the existing space for recreational lake users too.”At the other end it will connect with the stage three pathway and boardwalk alongside Lakeside Road.The project will also deliver three additional car parking spaces for those using the marina, while safeguarding the boat and trailer parking area nearby, he said.“Stage five is where many locals and visitors to Wānaka start or end their walks, runs, bike rides, and plenty more,” Ken said. “The upgrades here recognise the importance of this recreation space for boaties, and will help keep people safe.”Work is expected to begin in mid-July and be completed by the end of October.Pedestrians will be diverted along Lakeside Road while construction is underway, and controlled vehicle access will be maintained for marina, yacht club, and boat ramp users, but it is still recommended boaties launch their vessels from other areas to avoid delays. Boats parked within the construction site have been temporarily moved to Eely Point Reserve, and will stay there until work on stage five is complete.The contract for stage five was awarded to Fulton Hogan at an estimated cost of $1.5M.Read more: Lakefront development construction to occur over winterThe final stage of the LDP will be stage four - the development of Wānaka's town centre foreshore area. It has been deferred and currently there is neither an approved plan nor is there funding for stage four within the next five years in the council’s draft 10-Year Plan. PHOTOS: Wānaka App

Wānaka bridges expected to reopen this summer
Wānaka bridges expected to reopen this summer

04 July 2024, 5:04 PM

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has announced that three popular bridges which closed last year are expected to reopen this summer. DOC Central Otago operations manager Nicola Holmes said work is scheduled to begin on the Rob Roy, Blue Pools and Makarora bridges in the coming weeks, following “in-depth engineering, geotechnical, and design assessments”.A new boardwalk between the Makarora and Blue Pools bridges will also be constructed.DOC has been criticised by Lake Wānaka Tourism and Queenstown Lakes District Council deputy mayor Quentin Smith - among others - for its delay in upgrading the bridges.Read more:Tourism boss slams DOC delaysDOC dilemma: locals frustrated, tourists ‘laughing at us’A Makarora accommodation provider who voiced his frustrations about the delays in February said accommodation providers were “pretty pissed off”. Wild Earth Lodge owner Pete Phillips told the Wānaka App that hundreds of people crossed the Makarora River in just one day in February to access the Blue Pools.With tourists, fishermen, and trampers using the popular area it’s been lucky no one has been swept away, he said: “Everyone is being put at risk.”Pete welcomed news yesterday (Thursday July 4) that the next stage of work had begun on the bridges.“We are now in July so it would be good to get the job done ASAP,” he told the Wānaka App.Nicola said the work was “a significant undertaking requiring bespoke engineering and logistics”.“It takes time to achieve but now having done the prep work we’re in a great position to press forward.” Prefabrication work off-site has begun, and work on the ground is expected to start in the coming weeks. While winter is a difficult time of year for construction, the contractors have built that contingency into their time frames and all going to plan, all three bridges are expected to open during the summer, Nicola said.“We want to thank the community for their patience as we work towards this milestone. We know it was disappointing for a lot of people when the bridges were closed. Safety is always at the heart of our decision making.” Prior to their closure, the Blue Pools and Makarora bridges, both on the popular Blue Pools Track, were visited on average by around 550 people a day in January, with around 75 people per hour crossing during peak time. Rob Roy Bridge, which is the only access to the Rob Roy glacier track, saw around 180 people per day over summer. Numerous instances have been reported of people ignoring the load limit signs on the bridges. “Engineering advice was that they could not sustain that level of usage, and with visitor numbers continuing to increase, we needed to make them safer,” Nicola said. The Makarora bridge was also at the end of its operational life, she said. “With work on-site set to begin soon people are reminded to stay clear of any construction sites, and follow the directions on all signage.”PHOTO: Supplied

‘Grassroots’ funding for young snowsports athletes
‘Grassroots’ funding for young snowsports athletes

04 July 2024, 5:00 PM

Thirty Wanaka Snowsports Club (WSC) Grassroots recipients will receive financial support to help with their snowsports pursuits this winter.The Grassroots funding helps with the cost of snowsports improvement for school children in years 2-8.In this funding round of $15,000 each recipient has been granted $500 to go towards local training, WSC grants coordinator Bonny Teat said.More than $150,000 has been distributed via Grassroots since the club began the initiative in 2013.Bonny said it had assisted many young club members as they trained towards their dreams.Their goals ranged from “learning new skills on snow, others of winning medals locally and some of representing New Zealand, like the 2024 Youth Olympians”.The Grassroots recipients were celebrated at an event in June. “This year’s young skiing and snowboarding recipients received their 2024 certificates and were entertained by a film and chat opportunity with previous grassroots athletes,” Bonny said.The previous recipients included Kezik Magill, Charlotte Wiggins, Aiden Fitzpatrick and Harry Rowden, freeskier Sylvia Trotter and alpine racer Bella Bradley - all of whom were recipients of club grants to help them with the cost of competing in the northern hemisphere this past summer, Bonny said.The club also celebrated its six returning Youth Olympic Games athletes at an event last month, with the older club members reliving their experience in Korea for younger members. Bonny thanked everyone in the Upper Clutha who helped support the club.“A community really helps to create an athlete.”The Wānaka Snowsports Club is the biggest club of its kind in New Zealand, helping to support local rising snowsports athletes.PHOTO: Supplied

Health services to wait for infrastructure & investment plan
Health services to wait for infrastructure & investment plan

03 July 2024, 5:06 PM

Recent announcements of health services for the Upper Clutha are interim services and long- term services will be a year or more away and depend on the outcome of a national infrastructure and investment plan.Last Thursday (June 27) was a big health news day for Wānaka, as the prime minister and health minister touched down to officially open Wānaka’s new primary birthing unit and announce an interim after-hours service for the Upper Clutha to open in September.While the birthing unit - named Rākai Kahukura - has been officially opened, the doors to the unit won’t open until the end of the month (July 29) when work is completed on the facility.As for the after-hours service, health minister Dr Shane Reti acknowledged it was “a starting position” to “at least address after hours care”.Any specific questions about health services in the Upper Clutha from local journalists he deflected to the government’s proposed infrastructure and investment plan, which he said will identify where infrastructure is triaged across the country.The health minister would not be drawn on plans for a privately-funded hospital at Three Parks, nor on future publicly-funded plans. IMAGE: SuppliedA more “focused discussion” on infrastructure for this area would not happen until early 2025, he said. The government says the infrastructure investment plan will establish a national position on the capital investments required to support the goals of the health system, developing a long-term perspective on the relative priorities and sequencing of investment in facilities to support future service delivery.Prime minister Christopher Luxon said Roa’s plans for a $300M privately-funded hospital as part of a ‘health precinct’ at Three Parks were going through a process and he would not comment. Read more: Roa to apply for fast-track approvalDr Reti wouldn’t be drawn on whether a regional hospital for this area was inevitable, but said the government’s goal was “to deliver timely access to quality healthcare”. He told journalists he accepted the challenges of rural terrain and weather, and acknowledged that the Upper Clutha and Southern Lakes in general was a growth area.“These are the challenges that we see and will identify in the infrastructure plan,” he said.A long-term solution to after-hours care in the Upper Clutha will have to wait for a year or more. PHOTO: Wānaka AppDr Reti said he expected that the $30M funding boost for radiology services, which is currently being piloted at Capital Coast and Hutt Hospitals, would be rolled out quickly to other regions, but he would not comment specifically on whether or not the Upper Clutha would benefit from it.The prime minister told media the government was “very open” to public private partnerships in the health sector.“We’re open to getting the infrastructure built faster and better,” he said.Continued push for viable long term after-hours careLocal advocacy for better access to health services has been building in Wānaka, with after-hours services a key issue.Wānaka Upper Clutha Community Board chair Simon Telfer told the Wānaka App he was grateful to Central Otago Health (Dunstan Hospital) for “a long period of planning in this area and for Monique [Mayze] and the Health Action Wānaka team for keeping the pressure on”.“This gives us 12 months of service during which we will continue to push for a viable long term model of after hours care,” he said.“The momentum we created from March's community meeting in the Lake Wānaka Centre is really pleasing. It shows that a co-ordinated and engaged public can bring about change.”Te Whatu Ora also acknowledged the planned nurse-led after hours service (which will be available from 11pm to 8am seven days a week in Wānaka with remote support by the local Dunstan Hospital overnight physician and rural after-hours telehealth service Ka Ora) was “an interim measure” for 12 months.“We are putting an interim solution in place for the Wānaka community while we look at alternative models of care that can be provided in the long-term across the region,” Te Whatu Ora Te Waipounamu regional wayfinder Chiquita Hansen said.“We are aware that the population in Central Otago is growing fast and we continue to work with partners across our health system to improve access to primary healthcare. Our planning process will ensure community voices and local priorities inform any future developments.”Central Otago Health Services Limited chief executive Hayley Anderson said the organisation was delighted to be able to provide the interim service, which was “something we have considered could be delivered for our community for a long time”.Central Otago Health Services Ltd is now advertising for registered nurses to work as clinical nurse specialists, who are “prepared to work alone at times”, for the seven day a week overnight “assessment and monitoring service” in Wānaka. “The service will be nurse driven with clinical telehealth support from Dunstan Hospital senior medical doctors,” the advertisement says. “The service is currently in its planning phase, we expect to have this established by early September 2024.”

Winter rental market takes a turn
Winter rental market takes a turn

03 July 2024, 5:04 PM

Long-running winter rental supply shortages appear to have taken a turn this season.Last winter Home & Co director Colleen Topping told the Wānaka App each winter felt “a bit like groundhog day”.There would be a big influx of people arriving in Wānaka for the season and not enough rentals to house them.But this winter the supply of rentals has increased significantly, with “quite a lot” of listings, some of them sitting on the market for months.A search of rental properties listed on realestate.co.nz this week shows 36 local properties listed.Wānaka’s rental supply has increased this winter. PHOTO: Wānaka AppColleen said there were two main factors she had noticed contributing to the increase in supply.“We’ve been approached by people who haven’t been able to sell - either they haven’t been able to achieve the price they wanted or haven't had interest, and they’ve been bringing their houses to us to rent,” she said.Others are people who have been renting their properties via Airbnb who are turning to longer-term rentals for a couple of reasons, she said.A new rule came into effect in April which makes Airbnb stays now subject to GST, reducing the return for hosts, and Colleen said she was also hearing that advance Airbnb bookings have been low this winter.Ray White Wānaka owner Duncan Good said it was well known across Queenstown and Wānaka that forward bookings on Airbnb have dropped as people are being more careful about spending.“People are feeling the punch dollar wise and saving their pennies and watching the conditions,” he said.While more houses for rent might sound like good news for renters, prices are up.Duncan said the average locals rent had increased 15 percent in the last year, noting that it was at odds with sales prices, which had stayed “relatively flat”.A local woman who asked not to be named said she recently moved into a Wānaka rental property with her family after selling their house.She said finding somewhere to live was “really easy and quick” but the prices were “horrendous”.“We ended up paying over a hundred dollars more [per week] than we expected,” she said.“The cold and hideous houses were still really expensive.”While she was pleased to find somewhere fast, having expected much more competition, she said the family was “paying for it” with high rent. Colleen said owners wanting to achieve high rent prices for their houses was playing a role in the fact some listings were sitting on the market for a long time.“In some cases there is supply but it is not at the right price point,” she said. She said she noticed supply slowly increasing in summer and autumn but it is in recent months that the properties have become harder to fill.“I think people who want to rent their houses out will have to respond to the market.”Nationally, rental listings increased 40 percent in the three months to May but the number of rental seekers has increased by just 2.5 percent.

Crimeline: Security for PM, alcohol related incidents
Crimeline: Security for PM, alcohol related incidents

03 July 2024, 5:00 PM

The past week was a busy one for Wānaka Police, helping to provide security to the prime minister during his visit and dealing with trespassing and breach of bail.The Impairment Prevention Team (IPT) was also busy, with around 1,000 drivers breath tested across several local checkpoints, and it was disappointing to have tested someone with a breath alcohol level of 895 micrograms per litre, Wānaka Police Senior Sergeant Fiona (Fi) Roberts said.That’s “more than three times” the legal limit of 250 micrograms per litre, Fi said, adding that drivers should expect the IPT in Wānaka again this weekend.Prime minister Christopher Luxon’s visit to Wānaka last week included an event at Rippon, the official opening of Wānaka’s new birthing unit, and visits to the Wānaka police station and Wānaka LandSAR.“During his visit police were involved in ensuring his safety and security,” Fi said.A man was trespassed from Kai Whakapai last week after he, under the influence of alcohol, refused to leave when asked and annoyed other patrons.After being arrested and bailed, he was arrested again for breaching his bail, Fi said.Wānaka Police dealt with a second bail incident when a Hāwea woman breached her bail conditions.“She was arrested with bail opposed and has been remanded in custody,” Fi said.Wānaka LandSAR responded to a beacon activation in the Ahuriri Valley last week. Three hunters were located who had accidentally activated their beacon.The Commercial Vehicle Safety Team (CVST), which monitors all areas of the commercial vehicle industry, currently has a presence in Wānaka in response to complaints about trucks driving on Macpherson Street.Fi asked drivers to be aware of winter driving conditions.“Weather conditions are very changeable and there are more hazards on the road to be cautious of, so it’s even more important to watch your speed and drive to the conditions,” she said. “Black ice is a hidden hazard. It makes the road slick and can cause poor handling and radically reduce stopping distances. Carry chains all winter and know when and how to fit them.”Call 111 when you need an emergency response from police, fire or ambulance.Call 105 to report things that don’t need urgent police assistance.Call *555 to report road incidents that are urgent but not life-threatening.To make an anonymous crime report contact Crime Stoppers.PHOTO: Wānaka App

‘Like a warm fish milkshake’ - feedback invited on LTP
‘Like a warm fish milkshake’ - feedback invited on LTP

02 July 2024, 5:06 PM

Councillors are urging members of the public to make a submission on the draft Long Term Plan (LTP), which proposes an average rates increase of 15.6 percent for local ratepayers.It was approved for consultation at last week’s Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) full council meeting after lengthy discussion and submissions are open until July 28.“I encourage the community to have a deep dive into this if they have the time,” councillor Nikki Gladding said.Her comments were echoed by other councillors, who noted the significant changes and substantial increases to rates proposed in the draft LTP.Councillor Craig Ferguson said the draft LTP could “go down like a warm fish milkshake with some of our residents”.Councillor Craig Ferguson said the draft plan could “go down like a warm fish milkshake” with some of our residents. PHOTO: SuppliedThe significant rates increase proposal is the result of high inflation, high interest rates, government compliance costs and other things outside the control of the council, QLDC assurance, finance and risk general manager Stewart Burns told councillors.In order to ‘balance the books’, the council is proposing a significantly scaled-back capital expenditure programme, he said.“We won’t be meeting the expectations of our communities in many fields for a long period of time which is really tough,” deputy mayor Quentin Smith said.He noted that there was still some “really significant” investment in infrastructure in the draft plan.A QLDC consultation document breaks down projects that are being put on the backburner in the draft LTP (which include active travel, with a slimmed down budget), investments it is proposing bringing forward (which includes new sports fields for Wānaka and clean energy upgrades for the district’s swimming pools) and all the other details about the draft LTP.Find the consultation document, as well as information on how to make a submission, here.After submissions close, a hearing will take place in August and a final LTP will be presented to councillors in mid-September.PHOTO: Wānaka App

Southern Lakes Sanctuary secures vital funding
Southern Lakes Sanctuary secures vital funding

02 July 2024, 5:04 PM

Southern Lakes Sanctuary (SLS) has secured enough funding to continue its conservation work in the Queenstown Lakes District, but it's not out of the woods yet, the conservation consortium says.SLS - which drives predator control, restoring wildlife and protecting biodiversity across its 660,000ha catchment area - has recently secured over $1M from a range of private funders, businesses, philanthropic groups and local government agencies.Established in June 2021 as a result of the Jobs For Nature funding, SLS has operated on $1.5M annually to coordinate and deliver major conservation projects throughout the region. However, with the three-year programme coming to an end in June 2024, the consortium was at risk of collapse if funding wasn’t maintained.The group said that thanks to Central Lakes Trust, AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand, Lotteries Commission and many others, including philanthropists Sir Michael Hill and Rod Drury, its conservation work can now continue.Examples of outcomes include establishing a 100km-long alpine trapline between Wānaka and Glenorchy to help conserve vulnerable species such as kea and pīwauwau (rock wren); and protecting endangered mohua in Makarora from an impending rat plague through extensive trapping and monitoring. Over three months last summer, crew and volunteers walked more than 190,000km collectively to regularly check traps and bait stations with more than 5,000 rats exterminated.A kea in the Matukituki Valley. SLS project director Paul Kavanagh said the conservation group’s success and milestones to date are the direct results of its impressive crew and their collaboration with countless volunteers.He said SLS will continue to rely on annual funding.“Restoring the region’s natural biodiversity takes time and ongoing commitment. There’s a lot to do but with a great crew, a supportive community and rapidly advancing technology we are optimistic about what the future holds and how we can contribute to it,” Paul said. “By 2030, we aim to have removed more than 250,000 predators in total, while maintaining a network of 30,000 traps and support the return of endemic birds across Wānaka and Whakatipu areas.” He said he hopes it will become normal for anyone to see takahē wandering in the Rees Valley, hear a deafening chorus of birds at Bobs Cove and easily spot mohua and kea in the Matukituki Valley.PHOTOS: Supplied

MAC Radio goes live to community
MAC Radio goes live to community

02 July 2024, 5:04 PM

Te Kura o Tititea Mount Aspiring College’s student-led radio station MAC Radio will go live to the community this Friday (July 5). Co head of learning area for the arts Mat Doyle said MAC Radio provided a platform for students to showcase their music, engage in creative broadcasting, and develop media production skills. “MAC Radio is a great way for our students to learn about audio engineering, public speaking, content creation, and media management, while also fostering a sense of community,” he said. “The school radio station was set up by former MAC teacher Warren Judkins and has been revived after a period of inactivity following his departure. Year 11 student Toby Mills has been leading the revival, supported by a crew of senior music students who are helping to create content.” Mat said the students are involved in every aspect of production, from planning and recording to editing and broadcasting, and the school encourages any students who are interested in different roles (such as hosts, DJs, reporters, technicians, and producers) to get involved.MAC Radio host and organiser Toby Mills said he loved being able to talk to people and hear their stories and music. “It’s really fun to be able to choose the music people hear and to be the person asking the questions. While the radio content is mainly related to music, we are aiming to get more well-known names to talk to us and share their stories,” he said.“MAC Radio is 24/7 fun and relatable radio. It has no ads and it's a great way for bands at our school to get their music heard and to help the wider community learn more about all that MAC has to offer.” Year 12 student Harrison Eastwood said he was enjoying finding out how radio works. “It's really interesting to understand the software and hardware that goes into producing radio content,” he said. “I also enjoy creating jingles and little skits to entertain our listeners, and I love meeting new people and finding out more about their lives and how they like to lead them. I would like to deliver enjoyable content for the whole region to love, including a plethora of different genres and musical experiences for everyone to enjoy.” MAC Radio broadcasts a variety of content including student-produced music, live music events, recordings of public performances, interviews with students, staff and community members, MAC news updates, sports results, daily notices and other educational content. Listeners can tune in to MAC Radio via: radio.mtaspiring.school.nz or traditional radio on frequency 88 FM (subject to change). MAC has invited people to contribute ideas, recordings, or feedback to help MAC Radio to grow and improve. For submissions and inquiries, please contact the college at [email protected]: Supplied

Mountain Film Festival goes online
Mountain Film Festival goes online

01 July 2024, 5:06 PM

Live events and screenings for the New Zealand Mountain Film and Book Festival (NZMFF) 2024 have ended but thrill-seekers and armchair adventurers can still enjoy the festival’s films from the comfort of home for the month of July.NZMFF festival director Mark Sedon told the Wānaka App he was thrilled with the response from people who came along to the in-person events in Wānaka and Queenstown.“Our numbers were a little down on last year, which is not surprising considering the current cost of living crisis, but we are stoked at the turnout and the feedback we received from the festival,” Mark said.“People were raving about the films and speakers and we met several people who travelled from all over the world to see the festival.”All 64 films are still available to view online until the end of July.Mark and his wife Jo started the NZMFF in 2002 after they were inspired by a festival in Australia’s Blue Mountains and it has been a regular fixture on the local calendar ever since.This year’s festival included 64 films and 17 guest speakers.“Running the seven-day event was exhausting on Jo and I but we were rallied on by regular visitors, the many thanks, the laughter, the chatter and the feeling of community the festival enables,” Mark said.The Wānaka App attended Subterranean, Eternal Flame, and Keep it Burning.Read our reviews on some of the films here.These and all other films which featured at the in-person festival will be available to view online for audiences in New Zealand and Australia until July 31.Either select an online festival pass for access to all festival sessions for $69.95 or book by session (usually 2-2.5 hours and 2-3 films) for $11.95.View the full programme for the online festival here.PHOTOS: NZMFBF

Community groups funded to connect district
Community groups funded to connect district

01 July 2024, 5:04 PM

Upper Clutha community and non-profit groups, including Community Link, WAI Wānaka and Out and About Wānaka have received funding from Queenstown Lakes District Council’s (QLDC) 2024-2027 Community Fund.They are among 69 groups in Queenstown Lakes, 29 of them operating mainly in Wānaka, to receive support from the fund.“Applicants were able to request up to three years of operational or project funding through this round,” QLDC community partnerships manager Marie Day said.QLDC councillors approved the funding at a meeting last Thursday (June 27), committing $4.974M for the three-year period until 2027 and around $1.78M for the coming year.There was a jump in applications from community not-for-profit, voluntary or charitable groups seeking financial support, with 94 applications submitted.Sixty-nine groups in Queenstown Lakes will benefit from the 2024-2027 Community Fund, with close to $5M allocated for the 2024-2027 period.“We realise there are growing challenges and pressures on community groups due to the current economic climate and rising operating costs,” Marie said.“A significant portion of the grants provided were to support operational funding to sustain the ongoing activities and administration to help these organisations keep doing valuable work in our communities.”Local groups which received one-off funding included Wānaka Playgroup ($2,000), Upper Clutha Children’s Medical Centre Trust ($3,000), Wānaka AFC ($10,000) and Out and About Wānaka ($10,000), among others.A larger proportion will receive multi-year funding, including the Upper Clutha Historical Society Inc ($15,000 each year for three years), Community Link ($125,000 each year for three years), Wānaka Community Workshop Trust ($16,000 each year for three years) and Kahu Youth Trust ($20,000 each year for three years).The largest multi-year grant across the district is for the Whakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group, which will receive $450,000 each year for three years.Given the opportunity for groups to apply for three years’ funding in this round, a smaller community funding round will be made available for community organisations to apply for grants for 2025-2026, QLDC said.Marie said the diversity of applicants, which covered work ranging from social services to environmental protection and youth and education to tracks and trails projects, was encouraging.“Their efforts will greatly benefit our community, enhance wellbeing and foster a stronger, more connected district.”PHOTOS: Wānaka App

Review: Vicarious thrills at the Mountain Film Festival
Review: Vicarious thrills at the Mountain Film Festival

01 July 2024, 5:00 PM

The Wānaka App always enjoys the armchair thrills at the New Zealand Mountain Film and Book Festival, hosted right here in Wānaka, and this year’s offerings were no exception.Subterranean (directed by Francois-Xavier De Ruydts) is a classic thrill-seekers adventure story which follows two groups of cavers as they try to cave further into two Canadian caves than anyone ever has before. You can feel every claustrophobic step watching the cavers as they try to wedge themselves through tiny openings, claw their way through mud-filled caves, and dive in deep, dark, never-before-explored underwater caves.This reporter had expected heroism, but the humour throughout the film was a pleasant surprise.Revisiting a 1993 base jump from the Great Trango Tower.The cavers’ relentless enthusiasm for exploration goes some way in helping us non-cavers understand the appeal - but we still think it’s a sport better enjoyed by proxy.Eternal Flame (directed by Nicolas Boassard) was something of a trip down memory lane, as it recreated the 1993 ascent of the 6258 metre Great Trango Tower followed by an historic base jump. This reporter saw the film in 1993 and vowed never to jump off anything again, so watching the remake (including split-screen comparisons with the 1993 film) in a comfortable seat 31 years later was a blast. Keeping it burning: Edu Marín, his father Novato, and brother Alex.The two French climbers repeating the 1993 effort gave kudos to that team’s pioneering efforts. The 2023 duo said they were neither the best climbers nor the best base jumpers, but were just motivated. Well, okay. Technology has come a long way since 1993 (when the jumpers’ helmet-mounted cameras were enormous), but the emotional reaction to successfully completing the base jump seemed to be just as intense.Keep it Burning (directed by Guillaume Broust) followed a professional Spanish climber who took his “dream team” - his brother and 70-year-old father - to free climb the Nameless Tower the Karakoram. This was a pleasure to watch, not just for the family dynamics (a hilarious, nuggety dad and his equally hardcore sons) but the extraordinary climbing on the flawless rock tower. Avalanches, altitude sickness, a very long storm, and a demanding route were just bumps in the road for this motivated family - making for a great experience for the armchair adventurer.PHOTOS: NZMFF

One tonne of rubbish cleared from Cardrona River
One tonne of rubbish cleared from Cardrona River

30 June 2024, 5:04 PM

The recent community clean up of the Cardrona River bank near Wastebusters resulted in a massive tonne of rubbish being collected in under two hours.More than 50 volunteers turned up during National Volunteer Week for the event, which Wai Wānaka organised in partnership with Love Wānaka and Wastebusters.“Our river clean-up was along the Cardrona River below the bridge off Ballantyne Road – an area of the river that is often overlooked and could use some love,” Wai Wānaka communications and educator Jaylene Harper told the Wānaka App.“Together in under two hours we collected over one tonne (1,000 kgs) of rubbish from the area, some of which was part of a litter audit that is input into the national ‘Litter Intelligence’ programme.“We were blown away by the support and how much we managed to collect in under two hours. There are still a lot of big items out there to collect in the future, that’s for sure.”Wai Wānaka said the group was “blown away” by the support.Local businesses Wānaka Civil and Interlink Ltd brought trailers to the event and collected large items, transporting everything to landfill that couldn’t be recycled. Mitre 10 Mega Wānaka held a burger and sausage sizzle with the proceeds going to WAI Wānaka.After the clean-up the group gathered for afternoon tea and contributed to a ‘vision board’ of what they would like to see developed in the area.Ideas included native planting above the river (where broom and gorse currently grow), walking tracks, bird habitats, and an art mural under the bridge. Jaylene said the volunteers were a diverse group, from families to retirees to businesses - many of which lived or worked nearby, or walked their dog there.“I live in Wānaka and feel very passionate about this place and this is a section of the Cardrona River that has been neglected for some time, so it’s really valuable to come out together and  clean it up,” volunteer Ollie said.Jaylene said Wai undertakes regular beach clean-ups at sites throughout the area.PHOTOS: Supplied

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