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The creative brains behind LUMA Southern Lights Project are planning a New Zealand first.

Trust big-wig Duncan Forsyth says artists are creating “one giant piece” – a collaboration between local and national artists – for June’s event.

“That is pretty much a first for any light festival we know of, certainly in NZ. The whole back end of the Queenstown Gardens we are going to turn into an enchanted forest. Take them [punters] down a little rabbit hole to somewhere they can completely lose themselves.”

Aucklander Angus Muir is back as the principal light installation artist.

He reveals it’ll include 90,000 individual light sources among the trees.

“We are going to create a pretty amazing, almost 3D volume, of light within there. We will be able to control the direction it moves, we will be able to create shapes within it … we are going to create an amazing geometric work within an organic environment.”

Muir will be joined by Puck Murphy, Jon Baxter and Nocturnal – Projection Mapping specialists, along with local artists.

The Queenstown Gardens event attracted 35,000 people last year, a jump of 25,000 from the 2016 bash. Forsyth says it is getting bigger and better.

While he admits the event is challenging, he reckons their “no rules” approach works.

“We’ve got these guys around the table and everyone is pitching massive ideas into a melting pot … we’ve plucked out some common threads and they have total freedom.”

It isn’t the only new element. There will be more interactive pieces, performance-based bits, clever use of technology and hidden installations.

The free admission event doesn’t come cheap.

He admits a lot is run “off the smell of an oily rag”.

It cost about $500,000 last year – half of which was given in kind.

He gives City Hall a pat on the back for opening its coffers.

“They took a punt on us but now they’ve seen what we are about and have been the drivers of support.”

It also gets funding from other areas including the Lottery Grants Board and Central Lakes Trust.

Local businesses have also stumped up cash, ranging from $500-$5000, as well as private patrons.

Luma is hoping to further boost its bank account and will launch a crowd-funding campaign next month.

louise.scott@scene.co.nz