Thick smoke from a farmer's burn-off blanketed Wanaka for much of yesterday afternoon, angering some residents and perplexing tourists.

The burn was on Hillend Station on Lake Wanaka's western shore and was authorised by the Otago Rural Fire Authority (ORFA).

It spanned the hillside directly behind Wanaka's upmarket Heaton Park and Far Horizon subdivisions and several Mt Aspiring Rd properties.

Initially, the smoke blew away from Wanaka, but by mid-afternoon, once the wind had dropped, much of the sky around the town was screened by smoke.

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Wanaka resident Jo Gumpatzes rang the ODT to express her disgust at the ''appalling smog'' the town had been ''afflicted with''.

''I think it's about time we as a community stood up and said: 'Come on, this is enough'.''

She considered it ''really tragic'' for Wanaka residents, particularly the elderly, to have to breathe the smoke.

''Can you imagine being a tourist coming to town today to look at the mountains, to look at the view, and you can't even see them. It doesn't do anything for Wanaka as a brand, it doesn't do anything for New Zealand ... it's just appalling.''

Ms Gumpatzes said despite lots of laws around what could be burnt by homeowners, a ''handful of farmers'' around the area were allowed to create ''more pollution in one day than an entire population over a year''.

Lake Wanaka Tourism (LWT) general manager James Helmore said he understood farmers needed to burn off and he was aware they were trying to move away from the practice.

However, it was ''disappointing'' to see such a widespread burn-off.

LWT was hosting a group of Japanese media yesterday, Mr Helmore said.

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''They actually have the same practice in Japan so they understand why it's used. But I know there will be a lot of visitors walking around the streets going: `What's happening? Why are they doing this?'''It is inconsistent with presenting a clean, pristine environment to them.''

Gold Coast tourists Mark and Karla Freund, who were on the Lake Wanaka foreshore, strained to see the mountains through the smoke from the burn-off.

Mr Freund said they were frequent visitors to New Zealand and had decided to take a closer look at Wanaka yesterday. However, they had managed to see ''diddly squat'', he said.

Hillend Station is owned by Trade Me founder Sam Morgan and managed by Mike Scurr.

Mr Scurr said although a lack of wind caused an accumulation of smoke, the burn was well-controlled and had gone to plan.

''It's been a successful burn. No issues.''

Aside from one neighbour concerned about a tree in the area, he had ''not one call or complaint''.

The burn was advertised publicly ahead of time and was to clear dead wilding pines and sprayed bracken fern and to reduce summer fire risk.

ORFA Central Otago deputy principal fire officer Pete Scarlet confirmed the burn was fully compliant.

''Everything they need to have done they've had done.''

The smoke was ''unfortunately ... just one of those things ... because it's close to town''.

An open fire season began in ORFA's Queenstown Lakes fire zone at the start of this month, although that was likely to change within the next few weeks, Mr Scarlet said.

''It's all monitored by the weather conditions and fire indices.''

The authority received some phone calls from Wanaka residents regarding yesterday's fire, although Mr Scarlet was unaware of any 111 calls.

Wanaka police fielded just one call from a resident with an asthmatic child, wondering whether she should evacuate her home.