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Queenstown and Wānaka join forces to establish a fund for the greater good of the environment

Queenstown and Wānaka join forces to establish a fund for the greater good of the environment

Queenstown and Wānaka join forces to establish a fund for the greater good of the environment 

By Paul Taylor



Visitors and businesses can now contribute directly to Queenstown Lakes' planned regenerative future through a pioneering community fund.

Destination Queenstown and Lake Wānaka Tourism have today launched community funding platforms, Love Queenstown and Love Wānaka, which will ask for voluntary donations of money or effort.

Funds raised will be available via grants to local charitable organisations working to improve Queenstown Lakes' environment through climate, conservation, and biodiversity initiatives. All decisions on grants will be made by an independent panel.

And, crucially, a portion of the funds raised will be invested into an endowment fund, to ensure long-term, substantial funding opportunities into the future. That will be managed by the Wakatipu Community Foundation.

Destination Queenstown Chief Executive Mat Woods says the Love Queenstown and Love Wānaka platforms are the first project to come to life from the district’s regenerative tourism strategy, ‘Travel to a Thriving Future’.

The strategy set the ambitious goal of making Queenstown Lakes' visitor industry carbon zero by 2030, and was endorsed by the Queenstown Lakes District Council in February.

Woods says: "This is a really big day for us.

"We all truly love this place, have a connection to this place, and want to protect it for our future generations.

"When it comes to tackling the climate crisis, it is going to take a broad, diverse, and well-resourced movement. We know that there are many passionate people wanting to act, but just don’t know where to begin. These platforms have been set up to connect our visitors to projects that are making a difference."  

Visitors through Queenstown Airport will be made aware of the project as soon as they arrive, or leave, with installations detailing the values of the region, the background of these initiatives, and how they can get involved. District-wide, participating businesses will have both physical and digital points where donations can be made.

It is hoped the project can raise millions of dollars over the years to support the work of local environmental charities. But it's not just money the visitors can contribute, the project invites them to volunteer alongside local environmentalists too.

"While we don’t have all the answers, we believe that the answers are out there and that we are committed to being a place that is understanding of the level of urgency and that is willing to experiment and learn," Woods says.   

"No matter how big or small, donations will help support existing projects, as well as new ideas and new technologies."

Project co-ordinator Ash Bickley says the team has been working on the platforms for a little over a year, following the idea being suggested by former Lake Wānaka Tourism chair Mark Morrison, who owns Wildwire in Wānaka.

"This is a starting point," Bickley says. "There is so much scope for these initiatives to evolve and to become really key parts of our industry, the way that we do tourism here, and what we'd like to see as the future of our place.

"At the core, Love Wānaka and Love Queenstown connect our visitors and our industry to projects of value in this place, supporting our community's efforts to protect and preserve the natural environment."

Bickley says businesses too will be able to support the project in several ways. They can champion the platforms and inform their customers, communicating their own values as a business and that of the region. And they can also make financial contributions or partner with the charitable organisations to provide ongoing support.  

Another major aim is that the visitors themselves spread the word about the initiative and Queenstown Lakes environmental plans, when they return home after their trips.

The destination management plan, which was born out of two years of community consultation, sets the blueprint for Queenstown Lakes locals and visitors to go beyond reducing environmental impacts and begin to restore, repair and regenerate the natural systems.