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Author: Keiran Bleach

Baby Box Charitable Trust

A head start in life: Baby Box Charitable Trust

A new charity is thinking ‘inside the box’ as it gives Southern Lakes mothers and newborn babies a helping hand.


Baby Box Charitable Trust

Two-and-a-half years of hard work by a group of dedicated locals culminated in the recent launch of the Queenstown Lakes Baby Box Charitable Trust.
It was a proud day for its chairperson Vanessa van Uden, who was the Queenstown Lakes District Mayor from 2010 to 2016. She says the idea came from a Tackling Poverty workshop held in 2016 and the realisation that many Southern Lakes residents don’t have family living nearby to support them.
Based on a Finnish model, Baby Box gifts new mothers some basic resources to give their little ones a safe, comfortable start in life. The sturdy box is the size of a bassinette (so the baby could sleep in it) and contains a mattress, sheets, a woollen blanket, clothes, a merino sleeping bag, a toy, a book, a bib, a reusable nappy, and other useful items.
Each box costs the trust $250 and Vanessa estimates 500 a year are needed in Queenstown Lakes. Central Lakes Trust and Community Trust South provided funding and many generous individuals and businesses – from knitters and quilters to Wonky Donkey book author Craig Smith – have donated time, products or money.
“The ultimate dream is that communities all around New Zealand start to do this for their own community,” Vanessa says.


For more information visit
To offer practical or financial help, phone Vanessa on 027 229 6008 or Jan Maxwell on 027 233 7934.


Emma Chisholm

Forging a tourism career: Emma Chisholm

Emma Chisholm is continuing a strong tradition as the third generation of her family to forge a career in the Southern Lakes tourism industry – and she inherited her parents’ knack for thinking outside the square.


Emma Chisholm


Having bought tour company Alpine Adventures last year, Emma and fiancé Lee Saunders recently launched Alpine Wine Tours. It’s a natural progression for Emma, who admits that tourism and hospitality are in her blood.  After arriving in Queenstown in 1966, her grandmother Lorna became Skyline Gondola’s café manager and in the 1970s her father Adrian was hotel manager of Rydges Lakeland Resort Queenstown. In the 1980s Emma’s parents set up a quirky local business called Henry’s Backcountry Flying Pub Crawl, using small planes to transport customers to country pubs in the middle of nowhere.


Tourism and hospitality are in her blood

That entrepreneurial flair rubbed off on Emma, who has introduced a few points of difference to separate their business from the competition. As a result Alpine Wine Tours offers group tours exclusively for adults (children are welcome on private or custom tours). It also offers brewery and distillery tours for those interested in how beer and spirits are made.

There’s no doubt the Central Otago wine tourism industry is flourishing, with research by Tourism New Zealand and winegrowers revealing that around 25 percent of international tourists seek out a wine experience. Emma and Lee are looking forward to seizing the opportunity to make their mark.  “Wine tourism has huge growth potential, especially when teamed with Queenstown’s future growth,” Emma says. “It’s definitely exciting times ahead.”



String to her bow

String to her bow: Cathy Irons

Acclaimed violinist Cathy Irons has added another string to her bow – pardon the pun – for the Classical Jazz Quartet’s concerts in Southern Lakes later this month.


String to her bow


Cathy and fellow Christchurch-based musicians Barry Brinson (piano/keyboard), Michael Davis (bass) and Doug Brush (drums) return for two shows at Labour Weekend, following their warm reception at Arrowtown Spring Arts Festival 2017.
The quartet is excited to be performing together again, and Cathy promises that lovers of both jazz and classical genres will be entertained. “The audience comes along on a journey with us,” she says. “We give music a makeover, taking people’s favourites and infusing them with fresh inspiration and rhythmic drive.”

Reflecting her passion for music and dedication to her craft, Cathy has been learning to play the viola especially for the southern shows. This means she will be able to play ‘Tango,’ which is a movement from Bolling’s Suite for Violin and Jazz Piano Trio. Acquiring this new skill is no mean feat: the viola is larger than the violin and playing it is more physically taxing on the fingers.

Cathy says the concert programme includes Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from the Four Seasons – “we’re going to have a bit of fun with that” – and C.P.E. Bach’s ‘Solfeggietto.’ “People might not know that title, but they’ll recognise it when they hear it.” CJQ perform at The Rippon Hall (Wanaka) on Saturday 20 October and at Thomas L. Brown Gallery (Lake Hayes, near Queenstown) on Sunday 21 October. Tickets available through Eventfinda, plus there will be limited door sales.




Power of poetry

Power of poetry: At the Drop of a Hat

It’s poetry, but not as we know it. Three Southern Lakes literary identities are taking great delight in turning the traditional concept of staid poetry readings on its head.


Power of poetry


Liz Breslin, Laura Williamson and Annabel Wilson are bringing their unique show, At the Drop of a Hat, to Queenstown. The talented trio met in Wanaka when Liz and Laura started open mic nights, called Poetic Justice Wanaka. Fast-forward 10 years and they all have published poetry collections and developed a reputation for quick-witted banter and a relaxed rapport when on stage together. Attending At the Drop of a Hat, guests choose a theme, topic or idea they’re interested in, write the word on a piece of paper and drop it into a hat. Once they take the stage, the poets pass the hat around audience members, who pull out a piece of paper and read out the word on it.

With their different accents (Liz is from the UK, Laura from Canada and Annabel from New Zealand) and styles, the women then have to reflect each theme through poetry and performance. That means drawing on their extensive back catalogues of work or making something up on the spot. Liz, whose first poetry book made it on to NZ Listener’s Top 100, says they have to think laterally. “It’s poetry as you never had it in English class at school.”


At the Drop of a Hat is on Tuesday 2 October at Queenstown’s Sherwood. Tickets available through Eventfinda or at the door.


The Grape Debate image

The Grape Debate: There’s a battle brewing within the Central Otago wine industry

There’s a battle brewing within the Central Otago wine industry, but it’s for a good cause. And there shouldn’t be any ‘sour grapes’ at the end of it.


The Grape Debate image


Following the success of similar events in Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough, the Colliers International Grape Debate comes to Southern Lakes this month. Renowned for their lighthearted – yet competitive – atmosphere, the debates have raised $100,000 for various charities while tickling the funny bone of everyone in the room. The southern version pits Central Otago winemakers against viticulturalists to contest the moot ‘It’s the vineyard guys that deserve the credit, not the winemakers’.

Organiser Bex Tacon is confident this Grape Debate will be as heated as ever, with an impressive lineup of industry experts accepting the challenge. Winemakers Dan Dineen (Maude Wines), Duncan Forsyth (Mount Edward) and Paul Pujol (Prophet’s Rock) go head to head with viticulturists Gary Crabbe (Precision Viticulture), Mike Winters (Tekano Estate) and Edwin Haycock (Amisfield).

TV comedian Jeremy Corbett, of 7 Days and The Project, will adjudicate and Queenstown real estate agent Brendan Quill will lead a charity auction. Bex guarantees the audience will be in stitches. “Jeremy is so clever,” she says. “Afterwards people comment that they haven’t laughed so much in their lives.” Alexandra-based organisation Sticks ’n’ Stones, which works to combat youth bullying and depression, will benefit from the proceeds of the evening. Bex says she wanted the money to go back into the local community to help young people.


Colliers International Grape Debate is on Friday 21 September at The Winehouse, Gibbston.

Tickets available through Eventfinda or email


Queenstown’s Catalyst Trust

Southern though leaders: Queenstown’s Catalyst Trust

Queenstown’s Catalyst Trust provides a forum for sharing ideas and debating some of the big issues facing Southern Lakes and the rest of the world – and the concept has really taken off.

Queenstown’s Catalyst Trust

As is often the case, Catalyst was formed over a few coffee conversations between like-minded locals who wanted to make a difference. AJ Mason, who describes his day job as “technology strategist,” co-chairs the trust with former Queenstown Lakes District Councillor Cath Gilmour. He says they wanted to offer people mental challenges and intellectual stimulation in a place that is more commonly known for its physical challenges and outdoor activities.

The aim is to bring together compelling speakers, respected thought leaders, subject-matter and policy experts and present them to an audience that has a thirst for knowledge and a desire to interact, exchange bright ideas, ask questions and voice opinions. “We want to spark solutions; collaboration; team-work; innovative and provocative thinking; creativity; and an understanding of each other’s perspectives,” AJ says.

This month Catalyst hosts an affordable housing forum, which is expected to generate a high level of interest. Speakers include Housing Minister Phil Twyford, Generation Rent author and economist Shamubeel Eaqub, and Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust chair Martin Hawes. Can We Ever Fix Queenstown’s Housing Crisis? is on Thursday 30 August at 7pm at Queenstown Memorial Centre.

For more information, visit


Audi quattro Winter Games New Zealand

Cream of winter’s Crop: Audi quattro Winter Games New Zealand

One of the world’s top five international winter sports events takes centre stage in the Southern Lakes later this month. Wanaka, Queenstown and Naseby play host to Audi quattro Winter Games New Zealand, which showcases the most talented elite athletes in skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey and curling.

Audi quattro Winter Games New Zealand

Beginning on Friday 24 August with a spectacular opening ceremony in Wanaka, Winter Games NZ is aiming to build on the growing national interest in snow sports and the higher profile it is currently enjoying. That is largely thanks to teenage sensations Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Nico Porteous, who both won bronze medals for New Zealand at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in South Korea in February. The two young Wanaka residents are confirmed starters for Winter Games NZ and are bound to captivate the audience again with their flips and tricks, as they did in Pyeongchang.

The glamour event of Winter Games NZ is the FIS (International Ski Federation) Junior Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships, held at Cardrona Alpine Resort near Wanaka. It’s a prestigious competition expected to attract an impressive international lineup and new Games Chief Executive Marty Toomey is excited at the prospect.
“The cream of the world’s young talent will compete, along with our own leading junior freeskiers and snowboarders,” Marty says. “And we will undoubtedly see many of them on the podium in 2022 at the Beijing Olympic Winter Games.”

Audi quattro Winter Games NZ runs from 24 August to 8 September. For the full sports programme and other events, visit


The Viking Ball

Going Viking! – The Viking Ball

In ancient times, those who went off raiding and plundering in ships were said to be ‘going Viking’. These days such behaviour is frowned upon, but Southern Lakes residents can at least dust off their furs and party like they’ve made it to Valhalla (Viking heaven).

The Viking Ball

An innovative charity fundraiser, The Viking Ball is being held next month to raise money for Upper Clutha Hospice Trust. Wanaka event manager Samantha Stout feels strongly about giving back to her community and has teamed up with Pete and Claire Marshall – owners of high-end venue Corbridge Woolshed – to plan the evening.
“It will be a totally immersive experience, with highly theatrical elements,” Samantha says. “Prepare to be surprised.”
Entertainment includes live music, a fire dancer and actors dressed as Vikings. Without giving too much else away, Samantha reveals that a traditional Viking burial ritual will be re-enacted using the small lake at the venue.

And what to wear to an event that is heavily themed around the seafaring warriors of the late 8th to 11th centuries? Think natural fibres: leather, wool and fur. Samantha suggests people could further support the cause by finding an outfit at the Upper Clutha Hospice Shop in Wanaka.
The Viking Ball is on Saturday 4 August at Corbridge Woolshed, 707 Wanaka-Luggate Highway. Tickets cost $160 per person (10 percent discount available for groups of 10 or more). Email or phone 027 931 6003.

Southern lakes

Arrowtown’s Cultural Gems: Southern lakes

If outdoor pursuits in the bone-chilling Southern Lakes winter are not your bag, take refuge indoors and discover some of the cultural, historic and artistic gems in Arrowtown. You don’t have to wander far off the beaten track – or the main street – to get a decent dose of intellectual and sensory stimulation.

Southern lakes Take a step back in time at Lakes District Museum. Arrowtown is steeped in rich history, thanks to its fascinating goldmining past, and the museum showcases it well. Jane Peasey – who is
responsible for special projects – says it’s an excellent starting point to get an overview of how the area was developed and who and what shaped this quaint town. Throughout the three
heritage buildings there are working displays illustrating early Maori life and the harsh pioneering times that European settlers and goldminers endured. For winter there’s a display of
historic skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating gear and photos. Lakes District Museum also houses an art gallery, bookshop, archives and a busy education programme. Open seven days at 49
Buckingham Street.


Nadene Milne Gallery is a calm, peaceful space that provides welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the main street. Operated by two of the most experienced gallerists in New
Zealand, Nadene Milne and Jacinta Byron, it shows many of the most collectible, contemporary artists in the country. Its stable of well-known names includes Judy Millar, Shane Cotton,
Fiona Pardington and Max Gimblett. Having carved out a strong reputation within the industry, the gallery attracts serious art collectors nationwide as well as from overseas. A highlight
this winter will be a presentation of new works by Shane Cotton, due in early July. Nadene Milne Gallery is open 11am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday, at 16 Buckingham Street. For viewings
outside these times, phone 0274 401 665.


For a unique experience that is so much more than just a standard trip to ‘the flicks,’ check out Dorothy Browns boutique theatre, bar and bookshop. The atmosphere in the main cinema is all
romantic charm, with floating pink chiffon decorating the walls and glass-beaded chandeliers setting a scene of opulence and sophistication. Cheeseboards and wine glasses are easily
accommodated by the armrests on the huge seats and, if you need more sustenance half-way through the movie, there’s a very handy intermission. The den is a smaller, more cosy environment,
with seating for 20. Screening both mainstream and arthouse films, Dorothy Browns is at 18 Buckingham Street.


Blue Moon Rummage is a treasure chest filled with an eclectic mix of furniture, lamps, chandeliers, ornaments, jewellery and rustic clocks made from wine barrel ends. Specialising in
vintage skiing memorabilia, it has an impressive display of vintage skis, snowshoes, cushions, reproduced signs and shirts. Pam Lawrence – who calls herself “Head Rummager” – has owned the
shop for nine years and injects her own quirky style and passion in to the business. She makes regular trips to gift fairs in Canada and the United States so she can hand-pick her favourite
items. Visitors will chuckle over what must be the best collection of witty and naughty gift cards to be found in the Southern Lakes. Find Blue Moon Rummage in The Arcade, Buckingham


Winter thrills and spills: hit the slopes in the Southern Lakes

Four Southern Lakes ski areas will open soon, heralding a winter of thrills and spills on the slopes. Here’s a taste of what skiers and boarders can expect… after all, it’s all downhill from here.


The Remarkables is extending its learner terrain by a massive 70 percent this season, as well as installing a new conveyor to access the area. Ski Area Manager Ross Lawrence believes this will significantly improve the experience for novice riders. “The learner experience is about progression, so providing another step will get guests feeling even more comfortable and capable as they gradually move up the mountain.”
Remarkables Snow Sports Academy will also continue. The freeski and snowboard development programmes offer season-long and school holiday courses for children aged 6-18. For those who love jumps and bumps, there are extensive freestyle features across three dedicated terrain parks. The Remarkables is a 40-minute drive from Queenstown and three-quarters of the road is now sealed.

Opens 9 June, closes 7 October*

Coronet Peak offers the longest skiing hours in the Southern Lakes. Mornings start with First Tracks, when earlybirds can watch the sun rise as they glide down freshly-groomed trails against the backdrop of panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu. As twilight arrives, families and friends can catch up over a pizza or burger, watch the sun go down and take to the slopes under lights.
“People love night skiing – it’s a magical and fun experience,” Ski Area Manager Nigel Kerr says. “And it’s extremely convenient at just 20 minutes from downtown Queenstown.” This winter, night skiing runs three times a week, with Wednesday added to Friday and Saturday nights. “We have key events teed up for our guests to enjoy, bringing some well-known and loved DJs and bands to Coronet.”

Opens 16 June, closes 30 September*

Treble Cone is renowned for its unmatched terrain and leg-burning vertical, new General Manager Toby Arnott says. “To complement this, visitors can expect a fresh approach to the Treble Cone experience; wide open, uncrowded terrain, and short lift queues,” he says.
It has a northwest-facing learners’ and beginners’ area, so it’s bathed in sunshine and warmth all season. For hard-core types wanting advanced terrain, Saddle Basin and Summit Slopes offer plenty of challenges with open powder faces, natural half-pipes and fun drops. New for 2018 is a Snow Shoe Experience, which includes a scenic chair ride to the top of the ski area; snowshoe and equipment rental, and a fully-guided walk with a qualified instructor.

Opens 28 June, closes 23 September*


Cardrona Alpine Resort is handily situated between Wanaka and Queenstown. It has three wide, open basins featuring some of New Zealand’s most progressive terrain and promises that every family member will find a favourite trail. It also boasts New Zealand’s only gondola cabin-style lift on a ski area, McDougall’s Express Chondola.
Spokesperson Jen Houltham predicts “another epic season” this year. “Highlights of the 2018 winter up at Cardrona will be the Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival; the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ, and the Jossi Wells Invitational,” she says.

Opens 16 June, closes 14 October*

*All dates subject to weather and snow conditions.