First sustainable Diwali here a ‘huge success’

Organisers of New Zealand’s first sustainable Diwali festival have big plans to continue to grow the event.

The seventh annual Queenstown Diwali was celebrated at the Queenstown Events Centre on Saturday night, attended by about 1500 people from all over New Zealand, as well as two performers from Melbourne.

It was organised by Bhartiya Samaj Queenstown Charitable Trust with support from the Queenstown Lakes District Council and social enterprise The Parakeets.

Trust president Mangal Behal said the event was a "huge success".

When planning started for this year’s event about seven months ago, the trust discovered there had not yet been an environmentally friendly Diwali held in New Zealand.

"That’s why we thought we had to do it this year. Being a resident of one of the world’s most beautiful tourist towns, we believe it is our responsibility to give back to nature.

"There can’t be a better opportunity to do this than Diwali celebrations attended by thousands of people every year."

Along with asking people to bring their own water bottles, Queenstown Diwali was waste free, helped by attendees also bringing along their own doggy bags, while decorations were also plastic free and people were encouraged to use public transport.

Trust chairman Jeet Suchdev said for the Indian community, "nature and culture are intertwined".

"Indian culture believe there is a great connection between humans and the natural world.

"We know Diwali is special for our community, so is the environment to our people and people of this land.

"Diwali is, therefore, a perfect opportunity to give a green message."

A dancer performs a modern Bollywood style dance in front of hundreds of people at Queenstown’s...
A dancer performs a modern Bollywood style dance in front of hundreds of people at Queenstown’s first sustainable Diwali on Saturday. PHOTO: RHYVA VAN ONSELEN
Diwali, the festival of lights, is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year.

It takes its name from the row of clay lamps Indians light outside their homes to symbolise light is more powerful than darkness, and good is more powerful than evil.

While in Queenstown there was a heavy focus on Indian culture, it was a night to celebrate as many cultures in New Zealand as possible — performers included a belly dancer, African dancers and salsa dancers, Mr Behal said.

"We open the platform for every community.

"We’re not focusing on only the Indian community, so we approach all the communities so they can come and perform."

Initially held at the Queenstown Memorial Centre, the event quickly outgrew that venue.

The trust had plans to hold Diwali outside at Queenstown’s waterfront within the next two years, he said.

"The community’s growing now and people are coming from Invercargill, Dunedin, Christchurch and Auckland, so that’s why we’re trying to [grow] the event.

"We’re still working on it. To be honest it’s not easy to do it on the waterfront, there are lots of requirements — traffic management, health and safety.

"I’m not sure whether or not it’ll be next year or the year after, but we’ll do it very soon."

By Tracey Roxburgh