Local stories

The Denniston Incline

The New Zealand National Film Unit presents Pictorial Parade No. 195, After Ninety Years. This short film focuses on the Denniston Incline, providing a last look at the remarkable mountainside rope-railway which brought coal down from a 2000 ft plateau.

Written, directed and edited by Hugh Macdonald
Photography by Brian Cross, Sound by Brian Shennan, Music by Max Winnie, Paul Trenwith, and Colleen Bain
Produced by Geoffrey Scott and Ronald Bowie

The Westport Whitebait Festival

On Friday 21st October 2016, during Labour weekend, Westport threw a party. The Westport Whitebait Festival is all about celebrating community, family & fun and this second annual festival was a night to remember!

Beginning in the early afternoon, there was live music, food & craft stalls, late night shopping, cultural displays & entertainment all along the main street. With well over 1000 locals and visitors attending, the festival provided entertainment for all ages and received stunning reviews.

It all began in July 2015 when two young entrepreneurial women joined together to form a new business group. The Westport Retailer’s Association was created as a platform to unite local business people in order to create initiatives and events for the town. All of the projects have the same objectives; firstly to show off Westport’s classic ‘high street’; secondly to bring extra visitors to the area from elsewhere in NZ & around the world and finally to ensure people enjoy shopping locally in town.

The new event, The Westport Whitebait Festival in years one and two was also aimed at being something else – a beacon of hope, a sign of fighting back and a chance for locals to come together to support one another and celebrate for one night what a fantastic community Westport and Buller truly is! As you witness the way people connect, catch up, laugh and have fun you see how enjoying the company of others warms the heart and heals the soul – especially in hard times!

If you weren’t already aware Westport and the surrounding Buller district had suffered hundreds of job losses not only through what was one of its main employers, Solid Energy’s Stockton Mine but also with Holcim closing its doors at its Westport operation after almost 60 years. This also had an effect on supporting service businesses, people leaving town and put a strain on many people in the area.

With just nine weeks planning and only $1000 budget, the first Whitebait Festival was held on labour weekend October 2015 and it was a complete success. The organisers were completely stunned at the number of people who attended and the feedback the event received! It really was a celebration of this strong community, a sign of what can be achieved and a sign of Westport starting to think bigger, be proactive, see a future and fight back against the hand it had been dealt. This event would not be possible without being completely supported by local businesses, local organisations and local people volunteering, contributing and sponsoring.

So of course come October 2016 it was time to do it all over again, this time with a lot more planning and a focus on live music & entertainment. The highlight of the night is the “Great Whitebait Cook Off”, this is a Masterchef inspired competition featuring local chefs who cook an innovative whitebait dish in front of a live audience. The dishes are tasted by a panel of judges, with this year’s guest judge was the very funny “That Guy”, Leigh Hart. Medals are won and the coveted trophy is taken back to the winner’s work place until the next festival where it is up for grabs again.

Westport uses the idea of that delicacy ‘white gold’ and the treasured pastime of whitebaiting as a base to create an event that is truly a melting pot of different ages, nationalities & cultures. The festival gives you the chance to dance, sing, play, laugh, eat, shop and submerge yourself in the charm of this town, it’s people and it’s iconic New Zealand main street.

The town welcomes everyone to the Westport Whitebait Festival, it is proving to be a “feel good” community event that visitors and locals absolutely love. At this event you will meet real people, you will be sure to find a feed of whitebait and receive some good ol’ West Coast hospitality. It is held every year on the Friday night of Labour Weekend.

Kawatiri River Track

Back in 2013 the Buller Cycling Club started thinking about the possibility of constructing a crossing of the Westport Harbour to open up access to the “Lost Lagoon” and enable a scenic route for pedestrians and cyclists between the town of Westport and the Kawatiri Beach Reserve at North Beach.  At that stage is was just another good idea – not really something that was likely to be possible.

Roll the clock forward three years and the crossing has been completed, with the help of funding from the Department of Conservation, Mitre 10, SGS, West Coast Community Trust and Holcim.  “We could never have dreamed of a better way of pulling this project off than by utilising a completely volunteer team which meant the entire Westport community has got behind what we have done.  The support has been huge, with everyone offering to assist in ways that work for them, be that providing meals every day for the workers or loaning gear to the team to enable work to proceed”, said club spokesperson Glenn Irving.

The crossing cost $120,000 to build, and took 11 weeks to construct.  Approximately 2300 volunteer hours went into the project – a huge commitment from those working on the tools.

“What we have now is a real scenic asset for the town of Westport itself.  This crossing will be an attraction for all who come here, and they will now be able to fully appreciate our towns’ connection to its’ river and beaches.  Westport is in a stunning location, and this project has enabled the town to take a new look at itself and realise the value that we have in our natural surroundings”, said Mr Irving.

The Buller Cycling Club still have a few other projects in the pipeline to complete the trail network, and look forward to continuing to work with the Westport community to see them become a reality.

Guy Ryan is helping young New Zealanders change the world.

Guy RyanGranity born, Westport schooled – and CEO of the Inspiring Stories Trust – Guy Ryan is helping young New Zealanders change the world. He’s motivating young people to act on their ideas while they are still passionate about causes and unhampered by the fear of taking risks.

Ryan has done just that. Still in his 20s, he’s rapidly acquiring a national reputation as an inspirational leader who gets things done.

Click here to read more.


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