Real regrets as burn-off smokes out Queenstown

A burn-off across Lake Wakatipu smothers Queenstown in smoke yesterday. Photo / David Williams
A burn-off across Lake Wakatipu smothers Queenstown in smoke yesterday. Photo / David Williams

Real Journeys has apologised for smoking out Queenstown yesterday.

Smoke blanketed the resort throughout the day as the result of a burn-off on land on the other side of Lake Wakatipu owned by the tourism giant.

Real Journeys communications manager Tsehai Tiffin said there was a light southerly wind when the approved burn was started in the morning.

But the wind died down and the smoke drifted across the lake, blanketing the resort.

"We completely apologise for what's happened.''

Former Queenstown Lakes district councillor Chris Blackford said it was "disgraceful'' and made a mockery of the "100% Pure NZ'' slogan.

"If you'd travelled halfway round the world to experience this pristine environment that we advertise and you get here and you see this, you must be thinking 'what a joke','' he said.

A Queenstown resident for 34 years, Blackford said it was the worst air pollution he had seen there.

"It's having a huge impact and, quite frankly, if I'd bought a ticket to go across to Walter Peak on the Earnslaw I'd be pretty disgusted.''

He thought it was "bizarre'' that people in some areas could not heat their homes with fires because of air pollution concerns, yet permits were issued for burn-offs that could affect the resort in that way.

Tiffin said the burn-off was part of a land restoration project on the Von Hill Peninsula to eradicate wilding trees.

The peninsula overlooks the Colonel's Homestead and Walter Peak High Country Farm, to which the company operates the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw.

Tiffin said a contractor was burning roots and dead trees left over after about 4000cu m of timber was trucked out.

It was the last major burn-off they would need to do on Walter Peak and the project was 95% complete.

- Otago Daily Times

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