Wanaka 70 years ago

Wanaka Sun column by Pam Dovey - Upper Clutha Historical Records Society

Wanaka Sun column by Pam Dovey - Upper Clutha Historical Records Society

Wanaka 70 years ago

On September 1, 1940 the name Pembroke was changed to Wanaka.  But the change in name had not solved the problems caused by a lack of compactness in the township.

Irvine Roxburgh, author of Wanaka Story, wrote “at that time the post office, bus office and hotel are in one corner and the sports ground in another. The children’s swimming pool is on the foreshore of the lake, and the school is half a mile away.  The stores are on the east side of the flat and the motor camp on the west.

But more than half the houses in Wanaka are owned by people who use them only for holidays, and who have their chief interests elsewhere. This fact does not help the efforts of the ratepayers in seeking street-lighting and other amenities for those who have no cars and have to live in Wanaka in the winter.

“The seasonal visitors to Wanaka bring for themselves their own problems.  For one month of the year, from December 24 until the end of January, Wanaka “wilts” beneath the burden of catering for an influx of 2000 or more visitors, who fill the holiday cottages and the motor camps and invade the village which has a normal population of 300.

“The burden is, however, not all Wanaka’s.  To spend one’s holiday waiting in shopping queues is a discomfort that is not relished.  The factor that more than any other has attracted visitors to Wanaka since the war is that it remained an oasis of peacefulness far from the bustling city. Today, paradoxically, not so much because of increasing noise of speed boats and aircraft, but because of the influx of so many who want to find recreation at this particular place all at the same time, Wanaka is losing its former peacefulness.”

Sounds familiar! The community is still grappling with these issues 70 years later.

Tourism’s origins go back to the first European explorers, and residents of 19th century Wanaka were well aware of the potential their district had as a tourist destination.  In those days, most excursionists came over from Queenstown.

In the late 1870’s visitors travelled by train to Kingston, then up Lake Wakatipu by steamer. The Wanaka Hotel management advertised that it would collect people from the top of the Crown Range by prior arrangement, and the link with Lake Wanaka was established.

In 1883 the excursionists’ trade received a boost when the paddle steamer S.S. Theodore began operating on Lake Wanaka.  It took organised parties on trips on the lake. Tourists would get out at The Neck to walk over and see Lake Hawea.  

Tourism was further encouraged when, in 1870, red deer from Scotland were brought up to Morven Hills in bullock wagons and liberated, and in 1885 deer shooting was allowed around Lake Hawea. Fishing was another attraction. Trout were liberated in the 1870s and soon flourished.

Source: Wanaka Story, Irvine Roxburgh

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RELATED:  More Wanaka Sun columns by the Upper Clutha Historical Records Society...

History of Lake Hawea township Posted: 17 Sep, 2017 

Early Surveyors in the Upper Clutha Valley Posted: 10 Aug, 2017

A look back at Pembroke (Wanaka Township) Posted: 13 Jul, 2017 

Irish street names in Wanaka Posted: 13 Jun, 2017

A River to Cross – Albert Town Posted: 12 Jun, 2017 

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