Featured Activities

If you’re passionate about sustainability, you’ve come to the right place.

“Simply put, our planet is dying and we need to do something about it. Like, yesterday.”

For many, these are haunting, but true words and this year, Wao is driving home the fact that there is no longer any time to waste. Change is coming.

The annual Wao Summit in Wānaka is coming up from October 25-29. The Summit features six days jam-packed with over 40 different events, like kо̄rero, workshops, films, talks and tours. Bringing together those who are passionate about sustainability, regeneration, climate change and climate action. The Summit aims to explore a 360 degree approach to fostering social and environmental change in our communities.

If you’ve never heard of Wao or the Summit, or just want to know more information about the festival, this is a good place to start.

What is Wao?

The word wao’ comes from the Maori kupu for forest. In this case, the forest is in reference to different parts of a system that all interlink. It’s this image that the Wao charitable trust hopes to emulate – an interlinking system in our communities that includes tourism, building, food, hospitality, youth and business.

Wao believes that we have a responsibility to leave this place better than we found it. And as a charitable trust powered by volunteers, their mission is to educate, inspire and enable communities to accelerate towards a carbon-zero future.

Massive change is coming and Wao wants to help communities through this transition. They do this by working with key groups like youth or business community. Wao helps these groups to develop a vision and strategy for a sustainable future and then works towards mapping out that vision.

Wao also puts on the annual Wao Summit each Spring in Wānaka.


What is the Wao Summit?

With 40+ events taking place over six days, the Wao Summit focuses on sustainability and regenerative future across many disciplines and industries. There is literally something for everyone.

Browsing the Summit event schedule, you might find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of events to attend. Wao have broken down each event into six categories; workshops, korero, films, tours, hui and lunches. Each category is represented with a colour code that you can find in the bottom right corner of the event schedule.

You’ll also see that each event has a helpful description and a ‘Who is this for’ indicator. So, you can easily decide which events are for you.

The Wao Summit really is all about making sustainability accessible to all.

20201029 Reimagining Wellbeing Wao Reset Summit 2020 Sarah Crisp (3)

The Regenerative Tourism pass

Lake Wānaka Tourism, Destination Queenstown and the Queenstown Lakes District have recognized that tourism plays a crucial role in our region’s economy. COVID-19 has given us a unique opportunity to rethink tourism’s purpose.

Regenerative Tourism by 2030; a destination management plan is how we do this. The plan is being formulated with the help of community stakeholders, expert groups and locals. The aim is reimagining the tourism sector, enriching this place and its people now and into the future.


As part of the Wao Summit this year, attendees can purchase a Regenerative Tourism Pass. This pass gets you access to all regenerative tourism events, truly immersing you in the regenerative tourism journey.

This includes access to three talks;

Narrative of Place and How It Shapes People talk at 9am on Tuesday, October 26 at Glendhu Station Woolshed. As the opening event of the Wao Summit, this talk sets the scene for the week ahead by exploring the narrative of our history with the land. It also features industry-leading speakers.

Regenerative Tourism for our Region by 2030 talk at 3pm on Tuesday, October 26 at Lake Wānaka Centre. This session will explain what destination management and regenerative tourism is all about. As well as, share an overview of progress so far, and give attendees an opportunity to provide further input.

How Do We Grow a Regenerative Tourism Ecosystem: Panel talk at 8pm on Tuesday, October 26 at the Lake Wānaka Centre. This is a panel discussion from leaders in the tourism industry looking to seed and grow a regenerative visitor economy.

The Regenerative Tourism Pass also includes one workshop;

Climate Action: Carbon Calculation Workshop for Business Services & Tourism Operators at 9am on Wednesday, October 27 at the Lake Wānaka Centre. This workshop focuses on helping businesses to know their GHG inventory so that they can then start to look at setting a plan to decarbonise it.

And finally, the Pass includes one hui;

Back to Life Hui for Tourism Operators at 10:30am on Tuesday, October 26 at Glendhu Station Woolshed. This event focuses on the next steps for the tourism ecosystem, providing a moment to connect and reconnect. Participants will discuss where to from here, potential challenges along the way and set priorities for action.

20201031 Heal the Earth Wao Reset Summit 2020 Kirsty Taylor 5

For more information about Wao, the Wao Summit 2021 and the event schedule, visit Wao’s Instagram or website.

And feel free to browse more Wanaka events.