Love Queenstown Community Fund kicks off

It’s just the second day since the launch of the Love Queenstown and Love Wānaka Community Funds to support local climate, conservation and biodiversity initiatives, but it’s been a concept that’s almost two years in the making.

The two community funds are off to a solid start, thanks largely to the efforts of Non-profit Coordinator Ash Bickley, who in a unique arrangement is jointly employed by two regional tourism organisations, collaborating for the greater good of the environment of the district.

Ash Bickley Profile imageAsh Bickley, Non profit Co-ordinator

With a background in non-profit programme development, research and implementation - Ash was excited to answer a local job advertisement to scope the potential of a ‘giving platform’ to provide a unique solution to the challenges and opportunities high-volume visitation poses for the region. She later discovered she would have not one but two masters– Lake Wānaka Tourism and Destination Queenstown “it was a bit of a curve ball”.

But the response from both sides of the hill soon dispelled her fears.

“I’ve had lots of really powerful conversations with local businesses – all positive, around the need for an initiative like this. Many have engaged around the formation of the region’s destination management plan (DMP) and have been inspired by the region’s regenerative aspirations, but don’t know how to start.  There has been some real excitement that this is a really tangible project that businesses can share with their audience,” says Ash.

Love Queenstown FlagsLove Queenstown Flags

Businesses can choose to champion the initiative by displaying posters and the QR code (either physically or online), with opportunities to donate or volunteer. Direct contributions can also be made by a business or it can suggest a voluntary donation at the point of sale or booking. “We have a really different scale of businesses in the region from your mum and pop businesses with one or two employees, right through to the big players, so we wanted to make sure we had a range of suitable options,” says Ash.

Queenstown Airport was an early supporter, providing vast areas of high-profile signage space for the Love Queenstown and Love Wānaka messaging and a waiting room ‘the nook’ where visitors can find out more about the initiative.

“Everyone remembers the beginning and the end of the journey, and we want to make sure that’s done really well, and we create the opportunity to create value for the fund, and that people feel a real desire and ambition to give back,” says Queenstown Airport CEO Glen Sowry. 

Installation of artwork and photos promoting Love QueenstownLove Queenstown Love Wānaka installation at QAC - Credit Biddi Rowley

Although there is a growing international trend towards sustainable travel, bringing visitors on the regenerative tourism journey is seen as one of the biggest challenges for Love Queenstown. Numerous businesses in the district, like the Airport, already have their own significant environmental commitments with existing environmental organisations, but Ash discovered that whilst locals were involved – very few connected the visitors with those projects.

“First and foremost, we want to get this in front of visitors so they can start to understand the values of our region, and how they can be part of protecting this place through their travels,” says Ash.

The Love Queenstown vision is to have a collective fund that not only makes a positive impact on the region’s environment, but also enables visitors to become part of the community by connecting them with ways to help to protect it, and then inspires them to continue to do the same work when they return home.

QAC LQ LW InstallationLove Queenstown Love Wanaka installation at QAC - Credit Biddi Rowley

Destination Queenstown CE Mat Woods says he’s proud of what Love Queenstown has already achieved. “I can’t describe how extremely stoked I am to see this project come to life. This is so special that future generations will look back on it and be so grateful for the mahi (work) that went into it.”

Funds will go to registered charitable entities that work in the environmental space, and will be distributed by an independent distribution committee, which will represent local community values and be made up of people who are experts in environmental issues and the distribution of grants.

Members of the Love Queenstown, Love Wanaka and the Wakatipu Community Foundation
From left to right- Eunice Borrie (WCF), Ash Bickley, Richard Thomas (DQ), Jennifer Belmont (WCF), Ray Key (WCF), Tim Barke (LWT), and Mat Woods (DQ)

All funds raised by Love Wānaka and Love Queenstown will be spent exclusively within their region of origin, with a portion invested into an endowment fund, to ensure long-term, substantial funding opportunities into the future. The platforms are being delivered in partnership with the Wakatipu Community Foundation. Wakatipu Community Foundation CEO Jennifer Belmont said the foundation was thrilled to be the charitable arm of the regenerative tourism fund. “It fits precisely within what our mission is, in growing local philanthropy. Love Wānaka and Love Queenstown are an amazing legacy that will continue in perpetuity.” 

Now the fund has launched Ash will continue to work with businesses so they can spread far and wide, and get behind it themselves.

“I see this becoming a key part of how we do tourism in our region and am excited about a future where our visitors and our businesses are passionate and connected to opportunities to benefit the region.”

Whakatipu Reforestation Trust members planting a tree in Jardine ParkWhakatipu Reforestation Trust members planting a tree in Jardine Park

What Ash loves most is the thought that her children might see the result of the work that is being done here. 

“They’re four and six, which is the age I was when I first lived here. When people talk about the wairoa or the spirit of the place I'm like, that's been with me since I was a four-year-old. I hope it's the same experience my kids are getting and I hope it's the same experience their kids get. It’s an incredible opportunity to do something meaningful in the places we love, but that requires that collaborative effort.”

View the Love Queenstown Website here to find out more or follow us on Facebook and Instagram