Trade Me founder Sam Morgan has apologised for a burn-off on a farm he owns near Wanaka, which covered the town in smoke yesterday afternoon.

The burn-off on the Hillend Station on the western side of Lake Wanaka was authorised by the Otago Rural Fire Authority (ORFA).

This morning Mr Morgan tweeted:

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


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 pines and spray bracken fern, to reduce the fire risk in summer.

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".

Queenstown Lakes Deputy Mayor Lyal Cocks said with the town being both an urban and rural centre, issues could sometimes arise.

"It works both ways, but we've got to try and live together. It is sometimes considered a bit of conflict there, but we're working our way through it."

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

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

Wanaka resident Jo Gumpatzes described it as appalling. "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."

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.