Wanaka’s passion for rare crested grebes has spilled into the arts world and transformed a plain green Aurora Energy utility box in Lakeside Rd.

Artist Chrissy Wickes recently completed a grebe mural on the box and the Upper Clutha Community Arts Council is now looking for more public art projects to support.

The grebe mural was suggested by Queenstown Lakes District Council parks and reserves officer Diana Manson, as a tribute to Wanaka’s volunteer grebe expert and conservationist, John Darby.

Mr Darby has been nurturing and advising on grebe nest boxes since 2013.

Grebe populations on Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea are now social media darlings and their exploits are regularly reported in local newspapers and newsletters.

Stage 3 of the council’s waterfront development plan has featured the grebes in information panels attached to a new pedestrian and cycle path between the Dinosaur Playground and the Wanaka marina.

“It only took a week to paint, but a month of practising,” Ms Wickes said.

She was pleased to be part of the project to beautify Wanaka’s lakefront.

“The theme everyone wanted was the grebes, because of the fantastic work John Darby and his team have been doing here,” she said.

To prepare for the project she consulted Mr Darby, completed health and safety training with Aurora Energy and liaised with Ms Manson.

Upper Clutha Community Arts Council spokesman Donald Lousley said the council could fund up to $2000 for public art projects and council members were happy to help people apply.

About four years ago it funded Ms Wickes to paint the dinosaur slide in the Dinosaur Park.

“We were so pleased with it, we were looking for other opportunities to exhibit,” Mr Lousley said.