Kaiteriteri Beach on Sunday for what is believed to be the world's first hot air balloon night glow on a beach. Photo: Barekiwi.com

Lift Off for new festival

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A spectacular hot air balloon night glow on Kaiteriteri beach concluded the inaugural Lift Off Abel Tasman festival over the weekend.

Balloons lit up the skies on Kaiteriteri Beach in what is believed to be a world first hot air balloon night glow on a beach.

Balloon enthusiasts and skydivers travelled from across New Zealand and beyond to take part in the festival of “aerial adventure and fun”.

More than 10,000 people flocked to Motueka on Saturday and Kaiteriteri Beach on Sunday to be part of the experience.

Stunning sunshine and blue skies helped attract visitors, but the sometimes windy conditions caused a few challenges for balloonists.

Event organiser Carsten Buschkuehle, a local tourism operator and keen balloonist, says the event was a hit.

“We faced a few challenges inflating and managing the balloons for the evening night glows, but we didn’t want to disappoint the crowds. In the end, the night glows went incredibly well. All the balloonists really enjoyed taking part in such a fun event. The spectators were fantastic.”

Among the balloons taking part was a new Abel Tasman Balloon, a specially commissioned $100,000 balloon with an eye-catching graphic of the Abel Tasman National Park.

The Abel Tasman Balloon will now visit other balloons festivals to promote the region.
Around 40 skydivers also took part in the festival, completing around 450 jumps.

A skydiving New Zealand record was set with a HALO (high altitude, low opening) sky dive at 25,000 feet by local resident Wendy Smith, a 21,000 jump veteran and holder of 10 world records, two Guinness records and an Emmy award.

Local skydiver Wendy Smith set a New Zealand record for a sky dive at 25,000 feet. Photo: Barekiwi.com
Local skydiver Wendy Smith set a New Zealand record for a sky dive at 25,000 feet. Photo: Barekiwi.com

She free fell for 1 minute and 50 seconds at speeds of up to 250 km/hr before opening her parachute just 3000 feet from the ground.

The event was the brainchild of local tourism operators and intended as a showcase for the region.

Profits will go back to the community for future events and to four local charities, three of which are environmental charities benefitting the Abel Tasman National Park.

The Kaiteriteri night glow took place just eight days before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are due to visit the Abel Tasman National Park, which is set to further boost the region internationally.