Retired scientist John Darby is delighted the builders of Wanaka’s long-awaited walkway, Te Ara Wanaka, have not disturbed the town’s endangered grebes.

Mr Darby was among about 300 people at Monday’s blessing and celebration of the opening of stage three of Wanaka’s lakefront development project.

He and Markus Hermann, a Wanaka Primary School teacher, lead Wanaka’s grebe project, which grew organically from Mr Darby’s decision several years ago to make nesting platforms for the endangered kamana (great-crested grebes).

The project now has a social media following and is popular with Wanaka locals and visitors.

“John and I saw it from the very beginning but overall we are very happy with how it went and this whole team was very considerate of the grebe and us,” Mr Hermann said.

“That we’ve got 18 pairs out there at the moment is pretty indicative of how well they have been looked after by the contractors,” Mr Darby said.

Guardians of the grebes . . . Wanaka retired scientist John Darby and Wanaka Primary School teacher Markus Hermann at the opening of the new Wanaka lakefront walkway.

Monday’s blessing was led by Kai Tahu manuwhenua Paulette Tamati-Elliffe and Komene Cassidy.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult and Wanaka Community Board chairman Barry Bruce thanked and congratulated many people, including the project designer Garth Faulkner, of Reset Urban Design Ltd, and main contractor Blakely Construction.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council set aside about $13 million for the ambitious five stage lakefront project in 2016.

Mr Bruce said viewing the grebes had emphasised how valuable this section of Wanaka’s lakefront was.

Good work . . . Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult, right, thanks the contractors and designers who worked on stage 3 of the Wanaka lakefront development at the opening of a new walkway on 11 October 2021. PHOTO: MARJORIE COOK

Stage one park opposite Pembroke Park was completed about two years ago.

Meanwhile, plans for the $2.8 million second stage are nearly complete.

This involves the lakefront between the Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Rd car park through to Dungarvon St and will include a new Millennium Pathway of history tiles.

Council community services general manager Thunes Cloete said Millennium Pathway concepts had been drawn up, new tiles had been purchased and an etching process had been determined.

Concept designs for stages four (town centre) and five (marina and yacht club) have begun.

Stage Five designs will be shared this month.

People place . . . the public stroll beside Lake Wanaka’s nesting grebes at the opening of the new lakefront walkway on 11 October 2021