Lantern event gets funding after fire safety thumbs-up

Joao Souza, then 5, of Queenstown, releases his lantern at Light Up Winter in Cromwell in 2023....
Joao Souza, then 5, of Queenstown, releases his lantern at Light Up Winter in Cromwell in 2023. About a thousand lanterns are released as part of the annual community event. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Lanterns will fly at Cromwell this winter — and so will Light Up Winter — after the Cromwell Community Board decided this week to allocate $95,000 to the Cromwell and Districts Promotions Group.

The allocation is from the board’s 2024-25 promotions grants budget, to cover some of the costs of delivering three events that draw visitors to town.

They are Light Up Winter (August 3), Cromwell Street Party and Fireworks (October 27) and the Cherry Festival (December 29).

About $45,550 will be applied to the latter two events, with the remainder allocated to Light Up Winter.

The key issue addressed by the board on Tuesday was whether a lantern release during Light Up Winter was fire safe and whether they would randomly litter the land.

Previously, Fire and Emergency New Zealand had advised sky lanterns could spread fires.

That was a risk the board and Central Otago District Council did not want to be seen to support through a grant to Light Up Winter.

There were also concerns the promotions group’s initial grant request for $105,550 would have left about $1000 in the promotions budget for the remainder of the 2024-25 financial year.

The board learned on Tuesday the promotions group had completed due diligence on lantern fire risks and received updated Fenz advice that fire risks would be reduced in the middle of winter.

The board was therefore satisfied they could approve funding for all three events — but only up to a total of $95,000, which was the same amount the promotions group received last financial year.

Marketing manager Alison Mason, chief executive Peter Kelly and destination and marketing manager Antz Longman were among staff recommending a grant for Light Up Winter.

Central Otago District Council community vision group manager Dylan Rushbrook said after becoming aware of fire risks, it would be negligent not to have done due diligence.

"This is great work by the trust and I am happy for it to go ahead," he said.

Promotions group chairwoman Caroline Murray said Light Up Winter was a much-loved event that brought many community benefits and stimulated the local economy during a quiet season.

In all the years the event had been held, there had not been a single fire or lantern-related incident.