John’s many lasting legacies

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Well-known local and former district councillor John Wilson was farewelled in Arrowtown yesterday.

Wilson died on November 19, aged 70, after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

A long-time Arrowtown ward councillor, Wilson had a particular interest in conservation and local heritage.

Lakes District Museum director, fellow former Arrowtown councillor and friend David Clarke says Wilson made several significant contributions to the community.

Originally from North Otago, Wilson initially had a holiday home in Arrowtown in the 1980s, before making the permanent move.

He became the museum board president, helped reforest Pigeon Island, between Queenstown and Glenorchy, and was the first chairman of the Wakatipu Trails Trust, now known as the Queenstown Trails Trust.

The trust, established in 2002, has since created a network of more than 130km of trails around the Wakatipu basin.

Wilson was chair until 2008 – in 2016 his contribution was acknowledged when a cove at Kelvin Peninsula was named after him.

When he retired, he told the Otago Daily Times the Lake Hayes track walkway was the most significant achievement of the trust to that point.

He served for six years as the Arrowtown voice on Queenstown’s council, but decided to stand down, due to his health, in 2010.

At the time, he said he was most proud of the work done with the historic Buckingham Street cottages, and the efforts made to get them back in to council ownership and restored.

They had been owned by late Irish developer Eamon Cleary, but a back-door deal was struck by local developer John Martin, who bought the three cottages, which date to the 1870s, for $1.9 million.

The following day Martin sold them on to the council.

Clarke says while Wilson spent many years living with Parkinson’s disease, it didn’t hold him back.

“Right up to the end he was trying to get involved in the community.”

His wife, Margaret, says while the last few years have been a struggle, the help they’ve received from both professionals and the community has been phenomenal, and she’s grateful to everyone who’s assisted the family.

The couple had two children – Chris, who lives in Dunedin with his partner Tamsin and their late daughter, Claire, who died at home in Arrowtown of bowel cancer in 2011.

Wilson considered Arrowtown home, loved the area, “and everything the outdoors offered,” she says.

A service to celebrate his life was held in Arrowtown’s St John’s Presbyterian Church yesterday.

ed@scene.co.nz