Mountain Resort extraordinaire in New Zealand's South Island

Wanaka is a small town in Central Otago, perched around idyllic, glacier fed Lake Wanaka and has the fastest growing population in New Zealand (currently around 4500 people). It also has the fastest rising houseprices in NZ, for obvious reasons: it has easy access to two fashionable skiing areas, Cardrona and Treble Cone, the surrounding lands of Central Otago were made famous as the land of the Riders of Rohan in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, and its setting around the lake is nothing but breathtaking.

Driving into Wanaka, the town itsself doesn't look like much: a group of low-rise houses hugging the lake front with a plethora of ski, surf and watersports shops, plenty of more or less fashionable restaurants and bars and some mid-market hotels trying to lure in guests. Looking like a slightly more upmarket Queenstown (an infrastuctural, architectural, touristic and developmental nightmare right out of the Costa del Sol book of destructive tourism) Wanaka clearly plays to a more mature audience then its trashy, racy competitor. As soon as you leave the centre of the village, the houses turn into (well, still pretty tasteless and unremarkable) mansions and low-rise apartment blocks, mainly owned by the small rich upperclass of New Zealand and plenty of foreigners.

Like every other district council presiding over enviromentally sensitive areas in New Zealand, the local administratrion is thinking about luring even more tourists to Wanaka, by giving planning consent to another humoungous architectural disaster in form of a huge hotel bang on the lake front, spoiling the already fragile view and wild life habitat and polluting the waters of this gem of a lake even more.

Wanaka is another example of Kiwi pioneer spirit gone wrong and another study object of how not to develop ecologically fragile areas of immense beauty for mass tourism.


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