Slackliners told to move on after trees damaged

by Lauren Pattemore - Feb 09, 2024

Slackliners in Wānaka have been put on notice by the council after trees at a popular lakeside park were found damaged by the activity.

Slacklining is a sport that involves walking along a rope that is stretched above the ground between two points - more often than not, two trees.

At the end of January signs were erected at the Dinosaur Park in Wānaka, telling slackliners to go elsewhere.

Queenstown Lakes District Council parks service delivery manager Clare Tomkins says the council signs were in response to ongoing damage to trees.

"We wish to protect our trees from damage and our tree policy gives us tools to ensure we maintain the health and beauty of our trees."

However, despite the signage, Ms Tomkins says the council doesn't want to see the end of slacklining.

"We recognise it's a popular activity, which is why our signs set out specific areas where slacklining can safely take place and not put our trees at risk of further damage."

Signs prohibiting slacklining are also in place at Wānaka's Pembroke Park.

They say slacklining damages the bark and inner layers of tree trunks and can lead to their decline, and they direct people to two public spaces in the district where slacklining is permitted - Queenstown Gardens and Wānaka's Lismore Park.

The signage caused initial confusion among Wānaka's slacklining community.

Until they went up, close to 30 people had been gathering at the Dinosaur Park each week on a Wednesday to give slacklining a go.

A spokesperson for the informal group, Stephen Hudson, says there had been no consultation with slackliners prior to the signs going up.

This week, he organised a meeting with members of the council's parks team and an arborist to figure out a way forward.

He says it was a "fairly positive meeting", and it is his understanding the group will be able to continue using Dinosaur Park for slacklining.

However, he notes it will be "strange" to be slacklining next to signs that say the activity is banned.

It is his impression the signage is more directed at visitors coming through town, not conscious of the potential for damaging trees.

Mr Hudson says their particular community is "responsible" and puts protective tree covers on the trees on Wednesday evenings.

"We want to look after the trees because we need the trees to keep slacklining."

The Wednesday sessions started about two years ago, with only five or so regulars, but now has grown to a well-attended community event, with jugglers and acrobatics also congregating there.

It had been kept "relatively informal" since it started, but Mr Hudson says this may need to change in the future.

The group is now considering lodging their slacklining congregation as an official event with the council.

"We've still got to try and find a way to keep going forward, and the best way to manage it."

Main image (Facebook): 'Do not slackline on our trees' signs have been erected at two popular gathering spots for the sport in Wānaka.

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