I first rolled into Queenstown on a bicycle more than half a life time ago. I came through from Wanaka on the Crown Range road and had three consecutive punctures on the last big downhill, the road was unsealed back then.
I’ve been every few years since and was back there last weekend, we skied on the first day, it’s just as well the weather closed in. If we’d wanted another day I’d have to have called the bank to arrange a second mortgage. Queenstown seems designed to fleece you of all your cash.
I don’t remember it being so bad back then though I had less than nothing in those days, traveling as sponsored by Mastercard and stopping now and then to work it back below the max. I do remember rafting on the Shotover and was there just months before AJ Hackett started Bungy – it’s a shame really as I’d have done it then but am too much of a wimp these days. Trust me, I would, really I would, maybe.
The architecture of the place, always was and still is clearly planned so you’ll look where you should, at the magnificent mountain’s and Lake Wakitipu, not at the buildings. This time I drove across from Dunedin and my wife flew down from Wellington. We went straight out to lunch at Jacks Point golf course, according to locals it’s the new go to and we had a fabulous lunch washed down with a glass of Amisfield’s wine. The clubhouse, like the winery itself is all schist, NZ art and oversized fireplace and designed so you look out and up and ignore the oversized Poms (I know, I know) gloating over their mornings round, and enjoy your food.
On the Saturday afternoon I was driven round the new developments by a great friend I made more than 30 years earlier in what was then Zaire. In those days we travelled on the top of loaded trucks, these days he owns them. His company are heavily involved with the construction side of the growth, especially the infrastructure. We drove around the back of the airport, past developments and supermarkets that just weren’t there two years ago, let alone twenty-nine. In the last little while roundabouts have sprouted like acne on an adolescent chin. Hidden housing estates with tiny monopoly-like houses and a dearth of parking are in hollows off the main road. Allegedly full of people who rent their spare room to pay the mortgage.
We talked about the boom and bust that Queenstown is famed for. QVNZ announced that houses in the town went up 32% up to December 2016 to over $1m average, they’ve carried on rising since. My mates view is that with more stringent lending and heavy weight players coming in means development has reached the critical mass. He cited Trojan Holdings, the owners of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables ski fields, who recently announced the development of another full on full size golf course. QT’s official site tell me it will be course number 8 within 45 minutes of town. Less surprising when you see the arrival figures for the town, they peak in summer, not winter and there is perhaps a future proofing should the snow fail to arrive!
Over the few days we walked and talked with our friends and ate great food and ampled local wines. We went to the fabulous Dorothy Brown’s cinema in Arrowtown, I went with my mate to an old man’s stretch class, five of us under the online video tutelage of the instructor beamed in from Dunedin, plenty of banter and laughter, followed by a pinot or two and local cheese.
Southern paradise, Waitati or Queenstown? Somewhere in between me thinks. Before we’re back to Wellington we’re on the West Coast and over to Christchurch. Though I’m at that stage of the trip where I’m already looking forward to home.