New Zealand’s bra fence has become so famous, it has its own name: Bradrona.
Like any good story, the bra fence has the right blend of what it takes to engage people. From its mysterious beginnings and early intrigue, the bra fence has attracted controversy and conflict, and several battles between opposing forces. Now, almost 20 years later, it continues to captivate and inspire visitors.
Apparently, four bras mysteriously appeared on a farmer’s fence near Cardrona sometime between Christmas 1998 and New Year of 1999.
No one knows for sure the identity of the donors. Except, of course, the person or persons who attached those bras to the roadside fence, and other guardians of the well-kept secret.
They were presumed to be four partygoers leaving their mark after a night of kicking up their heels at the Cardrona Hotel.
Controversy and conflict
Four bras hanging on a fence inspired others to add to the collection. By the end of February 1999, the number of bras had increased to 60. Despite their removal, people left others to replace them.
This marked the beginning of the battle of the bra fence, one that continued well into the next millennium.
By October 2000, the number of bras stood at around 200. Once again, the fence was returned to its braless state. This second concerted attack attracted New-Zealand-wide media attention, and the story was picked up internationally. The resultant media storm created a flood of contributions. Some were hung by passers-by, and others were dispatched in parcels from far-flung places beyond New Zealand’s shores. The bras kept coming, which only served to fuel the controversy.
Among the locals, there were those who favoured keeping the bra fence. It had attracted widespread attention, emerging as the most photographed attraction in Cardrona. That’s something, because Cardrona has a quaint historic hotel that’s extremely photo worthy, both inside and out.
The fence was also a way for people to memorialize loved ones. It became a depository for bras belonging to deceased spouses, partners and mothers who would have enjoyed the bra fence and what it represented.
Opponents regarded it as an embarrassment and an eyesore. Some suggested it might offend international students staying in Wanaka, 24 kilometres away. The fence was beside a main thoroughfare, and others considered it a distraction, and a danger to those using the road.
When it was determined the fence sat on public land, the local council intervened in 2006. Citing the bra fence as a traffic hazard, the council ordered the removal of all 1500 bras.
Supporters were undeterred, and a bra collection graced the fence once more. That too, eventually disappeared. More bras reappeared. The “tit-for-tat” oscillation between theft and reestablishment continued until the final battle in November 2014.
It was then that bra fence proponents faced off against scissor-wielding bra bandits who operated under the cover of anonymity. The fence was snipped clean once again, except for the tattered remains of difficult-to-remove pieces.
Fence fans reacted by sending parcels containing replacements. They also took to social media. The Bra Fence’s Facebook page buzzed with opinions and suggestions. Would a bounty in the form of a $50 bar tab at the Cardrona Hotel expose the thieves? It did, but not before the fence attracted more controversy on the method used to identify the vandals, and the subsequent public castigation of the culprits.
Peace in the valley
Relocation, rebranding, and a worthy cause brought peace to the valley.
Shortly after the final battle, the bra fence was relocated. The new home was established 100 metres away to the access road to The Cardrona – Horse Trekking and Quad Biking, and the Cardrona Distillery.
Rebranded Bradrona, the fence’s new status was sealed with an official sign in blazing pink, a statue, and a collection box for a worthy cause.
When I visited in February 2017, bras stretched as far as the eye could see.
With its new home, Bradrona seemed to have found a permanent place in the folklore of the valley.
As of May 2017, Bradrona had raised over $30,000 for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation. A few months later, the Cardrona Distillery produced a pink gin to acknowledge Breast Cancer Awareness Month. With the sale of each bottle, $5 was earmarked for the fence’s donation box.
Thanks to the commitment and tenacity of the defenders of the bra fence, visitors have a place to reflect on the ravages of breast cancer, and make a tangible contribution to finding a cure.
- Bradrona is in Central Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand. It sits beside the Cardrona Valley Road near Cardrona, a township established during the 1860s gold rush. Cardrona is 24 km from Wanaka, and 43 km from Queenstown.
- Look for the shared entrance to The Cardrona – Horse Trekking and Quad Biking, and the Cardrona Distillery. But chances are you’ll first see thousands of colourful bras fluttering in the breeze.
- Allow yourself some time to read some of the messages written on the rich assortment of bras of different colours, shapes and sizes.
- Consider supporting the two businesses off the access road. Both offer tours. Through its pink gin initiative, the Cardrona Distillery contributed over $5,000 to the cause. Kelly Spaans of The Cardrona – Horse Trekking and Quad Biking is a guardian of the bra fence.
- The Cardrona Hotel is just down the road. It’s filled with heritage photographs, memorabilia, equipment and vehicles from bygone eras. Enjoy a brew and a bite in the bar, or in the beautiful garden out back.
- Queenstown is under an hour away. It’s a scenic drive along the Crown Range Route.
- Admission to Bradrona is free, but remember to bring a pre-loved bra, and some cash to donate to breast cancer research.
- If you stumble across Bradrona and wish you’d brought a pre-loved bra, you can mail it afterwards to have it hung on the fence. Send it to Kelly Spaans at 2125 Cardrona Valley Road, RD1, Wanaka 9381.
Do you live in the Cardrona Valley? If so, what can you add to the story? Have you visited Bradrona? Thoughts? Comments?
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