By MARK PRICE
New Zealand’s defending gold panning champ plans to boycott Poland if he wins the title again during this weekend’s Arrowtown Autumn Festival.
David Gatward-Ferguson (left) won the national title last year, making him eligible to attend the world champs in Canada.
But that event was cancelled because of Covid-19.
In the lead-up to the Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust panning champs at Arrowtown, being held today, Gatward-Ferguson — who competed in the World Gold Panning Champs in Scotland in 2017 — says the winner will be eligible to compete at the world champs in a town with a ‘‘unpronounceable name’’ in Poland.
But if he wins, Gatward-Ferguson says he’ll turn down the trip because of Poland’s views on the LGBTQI+ community.
Gatward-Ferguson says one of the top contenders for the national title at Arrowtown is a member of the rainbow community who probably won’t be allowed in the Polish town where the world champs are scheduled to be held if they qualify.
That, he says, isn’t uncommon there.
‘‘Poland has a lot of LGBT-free towns.’’
Gatward-Ferguson, who’s managing director of Nomad Safaris, won his national title at the Alexandra Blossom Festival last year by panning 15kg of gravel from a specified number of tiny flakes of gold in a time of about 90 seconds.
Registration for Saturday’s champs opens from 9.30am today at Butler’s Green — categories include ‘have a go’, under-13, ladies, men’s, teams and classic, in which competitors use old-style metal pans.
Entry costs from $10 and entrants get to keep any gold they find.
Finals are at the Green from 3pm.