DQ boss: Wanaka adventure capital claim ‘disappointing’

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A claim by Wanaka’s tourism boss that it is New Zealand’s adventure capital has raised the eyebrows of his Queenstown counterpart.

Lake Wanaka Tourism’s general manager James Helmore yesterday fired off a media release boldly headlined: “Move over Queenstown – New Zealand has a new adventure capital: Lake Wanaka!”

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd yesterday called Helmore’s claim “disappointing and very surprising”.

Mr Helmore’s statement pointed out Lake Wanaka is the only NZ destination to make a ‘Ultimate Adventure Bucket List’ compiled by highly-regarded National Geographic magazine.

To pull together the list, National Geographic asked top American snowboarder Jeremy Jones to share dazzling new frontiers and he touted Wanaka as “the adventure capital of NZ”.

Mr Helmore’s statement added: “Recognition as the adventure capital from one of the world’s most celebrated and well-known snowboarders is a fantastic tribute to the region, but one those in the know have always acknowledged.

“We have everything right here in Wanaka from skydiving, jet-boating, canyoning, aerobatic flights, heli-biking, ice-driving, mountaineering, paragliding, river sledging.”

Asked for his response to the Helmore gloat, Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd had a curt reply: “I am very pleased for Wanaka that they have received some international recognition.

“However it is disappointing and very surprising to have our neighbours reference Queenstown in this way,” Mr Budd said.

One activity missing from Helmore’s list – because it’s unavailable in Wanaka – is bungy jumping, an adventure tourism staple started in Queenstown almost 25 years ago.

Mr Helmore isn’t the first to try and claim the adventure capital title – a year ago Bay of Plenty rebranded Rotorua on its website by saying: “Rotorua is New Zealand’s adventure capital, with something to do every minute of every day.”

At the time, then-boss of Queenstown snow field operator James Coddington – who grew up in Rotorua – told Queenstown newspaper Mountain Scene: “That’s a bold call. It doesn’t even come close.

“Queenstown is the true four-season destination, adventure tourism capital of the world. You can try to compare yourself to that but there’s no place that comes close.”

Coddington added: “I’m pretty sure Lonely Planet coined the term [adventure capital]. We haven’t coined it ourselves – it’s a term that people have put on us. You don’t go out there and put your own label on yourself – it’s lame.”

The Wanaka gloat comes hard on the heels of a campaign last month by some frustrated Wanaka residents to try to break away from Queenstown Lakes District Council and form their own local body.

At the time, Mountain Scene revealed Queenstown ratepayers subsidise Wanaka ratepayers by more than a million bucks a year.