Festival helps lakes shine

St Arnaud basked in sunlight and moonlight at the weekend for the third annual Festival Nelson Lakes, which showcased the spirit of the alpine village and its surrounding environment.

More than 1000 people attended the two-day event, which featured market stalls, workshops, airplane rides and entertainment, including an outdoor evening movie beside Lake Rotoiti.

Destination Nelson Lakes secretary Helen Campbell said the event had been granted a 10-year concession by the Department of Conservation, meaning it was now a fixture for the next decade.

"I think it's really becoming part of the progression of the village."

Committee member Jan Thomson said it was an "amazing" festival, with perfect weather both days, a big, happy crowd and lots of activities, including the screening of Heidi beside the lake.

"There was a great range of stalls at the market, and even a resident alpine fairy."

There were 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.

Ms Campbell said all the workshops had good turnouts, and plenty of people - including herself - took advantage of the light aircraft rides provided by Nelson flight school Pacific Pilot Training.

Ms Thomson said the festival was a successful fundraiser for the Kea Conservation Trust and the Lake Rotoiti School pool fund, and celebrated a century of motoring to the lake.

A fleet of classic and vintage cars helped to mark the occasion. Ms Campbell said the arrival of the first vehicle 100 years ago was a "really special event".

"The history tent had photos of vehicles stuck in mud getting here.

"They came here because it was so wonderful - the early surveyors called [the Nelson Lakes area] a gem."

Ms Campbell said Destination Nelson Lakes existed to represent the community, and aimed to develop the festival in keeping with the theme of respecting the local environment.