Traffic management only glitch for brilliant Wānaka airshow

by Peter Newport - Mar 31, 2024

Persistent complaints of poor traffic management have been the only negative aspect of an otherwise near perfect 2024 Warbirds Over Wānaka airshow.

Blue skies and calm conditions provided the dream aerial canvas for a show that's become world famous and an important economic contributor to the Wānaka economy. It was all the vision of the late aviation pioneer Sir Tim Wallis who, from a successful first event 36 years ago, helped the event become something rarely seen in New Zealand - something that makes money and has the full social licence of the community.

However, from a disastrous Friday and Saturday to an improved Sunday this weekend's success has been marred by horrific traffic jams that could have been solved by a professional traffic management plan and a more professional execution of that plan. Total ticket sales over the weekend were up to 70,000.

Social media posts referred to delays of up to 2 hours to get out of airshow car parks while on Saturday the traffic between Wānaka township and the airport was slowed to less than a crawl even though there was plenty of space in the airshow car parks and very few non-airshow cars on the road. 

The only real winners were Wānaka locals who figured out that getting on their bikes was the ideal solution. 

Volunteers and security company staff who were in charge of the traffic management often seemed confused by the task and lacking in clear direction and leadership. Crux will be seeking details on how the traffic management plan and the awarding of the contract was handled.

Air show manager Ed Taylor has had a difficult final six years on the job with the official ticketing agency going bust, leaving many Covid ticket refunds delayed or mismanaged and what were referred to as "systemic failures" leading to a $616,000 payout by the airshow and RNZAF over an accident involving a vintage warbird aircraft and equipment that was misplaced on the airfield. The highly experienced pilot involved in the accident, Arthur Dovey said “I always felt that they were incredibly stupid,” of the staff operating Warbirds Over Wānaka.

Airshow boss Ed Taylor - a difficult six years

The 2024 airshow actual flying was so good that most spectators forgot past organisational problems on the ground and even this weekend's difficulties getting to and from the airshow.

Here's some of our favourite videos and images from Warbirds Over Wānaka 2024 (including one or two of the nightmare traffic!).

RNZAF Black Falcons


F16 - Image: Geoff Marks

F16 high speed pass.


Many people did experience traffic management issues!

F16 Farewell flares


USAF F16 pilots and engineer

Official highlights video


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