Laid-back fun at the lakes

00:17, Jan 17 2014
Super Fun Night
LAKESIDE LAUGHS: Amba Payne, left, and Kat Selwood of Nelson celebrate in style at an earlier Festival Nelson Lakes Mad Hatters Dinner Party beside Lake Rotoiti.

One of the pleasures of this weekend's Festival Nelson Lakes is that the music won't be drowning out the bellbirds.

Committee member Jan Thomson says the entertainment at the festival is all acoustic, meaning there are no rumbling generators to spoil the gorgeous natural alpine environment.

Now in its third year, Festival Nelson Lakes is a chance to head up to St Arnaud, "bring a picnic and potter around", Mrs Thomson says.

"It's a very laid-back weekend."

She says one of the reasons the festival was set up is to get people to see Nelson Lakes National Park and ensure they know how lucky they are to have it on their doorstep.

She moved to the area four years ago from Wellington, and says the community has grown a lot in that time.


"It's quite vibrant. I was surprised [that] we have faster broadband than we have in Wellington.

"A lot of people are starting to move here and work from home, or they live here and commute to Nelson and Marlborough. It's feeling like a very sustainable community now."

There has also been an upswing in visitors over the past few years, particularly since a new cafe, gallery and gift store complex opened about six months ago.

"We're noticing a huge influx of traffic in the weekends coming from Marlborough and Nelson. People are quite surprised to find out how much is up here."

The festival is designed to celebrate that. This year it is raising money for two causes: the Kea Conservation Trust, and fixing the Lake Rotoiti School pool.

There are two days of activities based beside the lake, and the list is long.

"It's been a bit like herding headless chickens," Mrs Thomson says. "There have always been a lot of industries here that most people don't know about."

A Big Paint Out invites artists to spend Saturday painting beside the lake, selling their works at the market on Sunday morning.

As well as the arts and craft market, there will be workshops, displays and talks on subjects as diverse as beekeeping, flax weaving, cooking rabbits and possums, breadmaking, hot smoking, living off the grid, mountain safety, endangered plants, pest trapping programmes, classic cars, training dogs, and building a moneyless economy.

There will also be a treasure hunt, scenic flights, storytelling, archery, a fancy hat competition, egg and spoon races, and a yodelling competition to go with a Saturday night outdoor movie screening of Heidi.