NZ wants gays to cross the ditch, to tie the knot

Tourist authorities have started a search for an Australian same-sex couple to be the first to marry in New Zealand when the country legalises gay marriage on August 19.

Tourism New Zealand's national search has been launched as a competition with Australian-based gay and lesbian newspaper Star Observer.

The number of Australians travelling to NZ is expected to increase because of the Marriage Amendment Act. The Australian manager of Tourism New Zealand, Tim Burgess, has said: "New Zealand is already the No. 1 holiday choice for Australians going overseas [1.15 million visited last year], so why not the No. 1 same-sex marriage destination?"

Mr Burgess said NZ had many stunning wedding settings. Among the most popular were the Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo, the vineyards in Hawke's Bay or Waiheke Island, and the top of Tasman Glacier by helicopter.

"You can shout your love from the mountaintops or clink your glasses at one of the country's finest vineyards," Mr Burgess said.

"We are excited to be making history and working with one lucky same-sex couple to become the very first from Australia to be married in New Zealand."

The winning couple will received return airfares, accommodation, a wedding ceremony and reception. The location has not been announced.