Kai, wai – it’s ka pai

Pumped: Wakatipu Waka Ama Club captain Leon Williams

For the first time, a special cultural opening ceremony will be held during Queenstown Winter Festival.

Mountain Scene can exclusively reveal all the details that were kept under wraps until today.

The Wakatipu Waka Ama Club will paddle ashore in Queenstown Bay to be welcomed by representatives of Ngai Tahu.

The focus will then shift to the main stage on Earnslaw Park, where Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett and Queenstown mayor Jim Boult will give speeches.

Wakatipu High School’s kapa haka group will perform, followed by Kiwi music darling Anika Moa.

Resort-bound: Anika Moa

The cheeky songstress says she hasn’t played Winter Festival in about 10 years, and is stoked to be coming back to a place she’s fond of.

“I love Queenstown, man – it’s my second home,” she says.

Finally, the night will be rounded out by Rhythmonyx.

Wakatipu Waka Ama Club president Frances Piacun is excited the club will be part of the opening.

“I think it’ll be good for people just to see … for others to actually see us come in will be really special.”

They will be called ashore via a karanga (exchange of calls) from Ngai Tahu. The club’s captain, Leon Williams, will respond.

Piacun and Williams will be joined by four other Wakatipu club members.

Their club waka will be lashed to another six-person waka with paddlers from Invercargill.

The Gourmet Hangi Kitchen will be open on Earnslaw Park with hangi packs and original steamed puddings with custard and cream.

Festival boss Lisa Buckingham says she wanted to introduce a new element that recognised Queenstown’s culture and heritage on the first day of the festival’s revamped four-day format.

With a strong focus on Lake Wakatipu, she reckons it will be a “great way to bring our local community together”.

The Queenstown Winter Festival Welcome starts at 5pm in Queenstown Bay on June 22.

The festival runs from June 22 to 25.