What was once just an idea has far exceeded expectations with last Friday’s Wānaka Aussi Aid concert raising over $40,000 to help assist the fight against recent Australian wildfires. The initiative was the brainchild of local actor Jay Simon, who, with his family, put the idea out to the community on Facebook and quickly saw it turn into a seven-hour concert, featuring around 100 local performers. As well as collecting cash donations on the day, Simon also set up a givealittle page to give no excuse for those who couldn’t make it.
The event was a major success, with crowds flocking to Kai Whakapai to support the cause. Volunteers around town collected $22,000 in cash donations, and another $20,000 was donated across the week online and direct to the account set up for the event, with that number still growing (donations are still able to made on the Wānaka Aussi Aid givealittle page).
Being the first community fundraising event of its kind across the country, the concert gained national media attention, with One News featuring a story on the Friday six o’clock news. Local photographer/videographer Daisy Thor-Poet also spent the day taking photos and video which culminated in a three-minute event summary which has been viewed on Facebook over 11,000 times.
Simon said that the event was a whole-hearted community effort, “I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I am with all the community spirit and generosity of this town! My family are extremely proud to be able to have give our town the chance to do something and get involved in a gig or give money to show concern for about the horrendous holocaust of wildlife that has happened and is still happening in Australia.”
There were many moments that made the day significant for Wānaka, Simon said that at one point, “a lady with tears streaming down her face handing me $2,000 in an envelope.”
“It’s not with competition in mind,” added Simon, “we were just feeling frustrated about not doing anything, so we did something. We never thought we’d ever raise so much money but that’s continuing with people donating online thanks to Daisy Thor-Poet’s film.”
Mayor Jim Boult issued a statement thanking the district for pulling together for Australia, “there are often jokes about sporting tensions between our two countries, but in times of true crisis it’s heartening to see locals pulling together to help raise much-needed funds for the firefighting effort… a big thank you to the performers who gave their time and to everyone who turned out to support the event. Well done to those involved in organising this event.”
Simon would like to thank the community for coming together to support the event, particularly his family, the MAC music department, Roger North and the staff from Kai Whakapai, Jenn Anderson from Wānaka Radio, Richard Elvey from Kahu Youth, Pukka Print, Design Wānaka, Nicola Simonsohn, Julia Larkin, Lucille Clarke, Carol Bradley, Queenstown Magician Jonathan Usher, Wānaka Visitor Centre, the Hāwea and Wānaka Fire Services, Queenstown Lakes District Council, the Wānaka Police, Mitre10 Wānaka, PaperPlus, Pukka Print, Design Wānaka, Nicola Simonsohn, Julia Larkin, Lucille Clarke, Carol Bradley, Wānaka Visitor Centre, and all of the musicians, magicians, face painters, and volunteers from Hāwea, Queenstown and Wānaka who helped make the day a success.