Kia kaha: Harry Miselbach and Phoeve van Sommeren of, of Paddle Queenstown, were kept busy on Tuesday hiring out their water toys to raise money for Australian bushfire relief efforts

Momentum’s building in Queenstown to help our cousins over the ditch who’ve been enduring one of the worst bushfire seasons in memory.

Raging since September, to date more than 6.3 million hectares have been destroyed, wiping out an estimated 500 million animals, more than 2500 buildings and killing at least 25 people.

And the fires are expected to continue for months.

Here, 2020 dawned with eerie skies, the smell of smoke in the air and covering mountains across the district

This week Queenstowners are mobilising to help.

At Queenstown Bay on Tuesday, Paddle Queenstown donated 100 per cent of the money made hiring out its watersports toys to the New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service.

The business was pumping all day and by 3pm had raised more than $200 in donations alone.

Boss Ben Farren says they wanted to start the new year off being “nicer to people”.

“I watched a movie and it said ‘if you can do something nice, and it doesn’t affect you, just do it’.

“Why shouldn’t we?

“One day’s turnover [out of] a whole season difference [to us].”

Farren says a heap of Aussies donated to the cause without going out on the water and one woman was so touched she started crying.

The next generation’s also honing their altruism – across the Wakatipu, local kids have set up roadside stalls selling unwanted toys and books to raise money for various charities, while others are planning on selling veggies at upcoming market days.

Outside Five Mile’s Countdown supermarket on Tuesday, Liam and Samuel Major, and Hunter and Lulu Shallard, sold lemonade for $2.50 a cup – or sparkling for $3.

The kids had two jars available for punters to pop their payment in to one going to NSW firefighters and the other to the Koala Hospital.

It’s understood they’d raised about $1000 by 3pm.

Meanwhile, Queenstown Bike Taxis is giving away a free biking holiday for next year, including accommodation, lift passes, shuttles and a rental car.

For every $50 donated to one of the main Aussie bushfire charities people will get another entry.

To go in the draw, email proof of the specific donation you’ve made to  – the info’s got to show the charity’s name, the amount given, the date it was donated and the giver’s full name.

That winner will be drawn on February 29.

Also in the works is a benefit concert, Wakatipu Waiata for Australia, being held in Queenstown next Sunday, January 19.

More details, including a confirmed location, will be announced in the next few days.