Community celebrates its pioneers

Motorists passing through Cardrona on Saturday were momentarily transported back in time as they shared the road with horses, stagecoaches and people in period costume during the community's 150 Years of Gold celebrations.

The event drew many visitors to the tiny village, while most of the residents of the valley got into the spirit of the occasion by dressing in 1800s attire. Local children took part in a period school class re-enactment in the Cardrona Hall and, outside, the crowd was kept entertained throughout the day by dog trials, equestrian events, gold panning competitions, music, can can dancers, blacksmith demonstrations and historic displays.

At 3.15pm, a Scottish piper led a procession along the main street, with the official party - including Cardrona's mayor-for-the-day John Lee - waving at spectators from a stage coach. During the opening of the event at midday, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden spoke of the importance of retaining the special characteristics of places like Cardrona.

''The things those pioneers recognised and put in place are still the things today's population want to see protected forever and I think that's one of the most fitting tributes we can pay to the people who have lived in the Cardrona Valley over the last 150 years,'' she said.

Mr Lee also gave a speech, providing some history on the Cardrona valley, where he had spent all his 76 years.

He made special mention of the McDougall family, who ran the village's post office for 86 years, and the Scurrs, who also have a long association with the area. Mr Lee also paid tribute to the hundreds of Chinese miners who lived in Cardrona a century and a half ago, and called for a memorial to be put up in their honour somewhere in the village.

Yesterday, the celebrations continued with the annual Cardrona Vintage Fair in the grounds of the Cardrona Hotel. Hundreds of people attended the fair and dined on rabbit stew, broom flower and watercress scones, spit-roasted merino lamb and other produce from the area.