Outspoken former fund manager Simon Botherway happily calls Queenstown home. He discusses with Philip Chandler his reasons for moving here, what his new interests are and what he thinks about tourism
Company director Simon Botherway is perhaps typical of the corporate high-flyers settling in Queenstown these days.
A former highly-successful fund manager who forged a reputation holding boards of directors to account, he and his family shifted from Auckland to the Wakatipu five years ago.
“We were fed up with the traffic and I wanted to do a lot more skiing,” he says.
He explains his family would book a Queenstown or Wanaka ski holiday each year, “but there’s no guarantee the snow will be any good, whereas if you live here you just go when the snow is good.”
“The other key catalyst was that, moving away from executive roles into board roles, I felt I could live down here and commute back up.”
Integral to that was the frequency of air services and the knowledge that night flights were coming.
“I can now get out on the 7am plane, be involved in meetings in Auckland by 9.30, stay all day and the next day and come home on the 7.20pm, so two full days and only one night away.”
Botherway and his wife Marion, who have four young sons, bought 3.5 hectares in Dalefield, initially living in a four-bedroom Lockwood while they helped design their new home.
He says they couldn’t be happier with their new lifestyle, with plenty of activities like biking, hiking and watersports when the snow’s gone.
“It’s about having some balance between lifestyle and work commitments – I used to do really big hours when I had a funds management business.”
Nowadays, Botherway chairs Serko, sits on the boards of Fidelity Life Assurance Company and Callaghan Innovation, and is independent chairman of new Wanaka-based fund manager EBT Capital.
It specialises, he explains, in global exposures to the equity and debt markets.
“It’s the antidote to the home-country bias that you see, with people’s portfolios full of New Zealand stocks where really they need global exposures.”
Botherway’s main voluntary role is on the committee of the Queenstown Alpine Ski Team (QAST), which he formerly chaired.
Passionate about QAST’s role in fostering ski racing, he says “we’ve had a really great year”.
“[Skifield operator] NZSki has been fantastic, and we’re having some great success with our athletes – Alice Robinson would be a great example of an athlete who’s come up through QAST and is now setting the world on fire.”
Botherway’s three eldest sons have skied for QAST – “my oldest has probably done his dash” – and his youngest will join next year.
Meanwhile, he rues Queenstown’s increased traffic congestion, and questions its reliance on tourism.
“I just don’t know that increasing the number of tourists is quite the right success measure.”
Both the current and previous governments, he notes, put an emphasis on more high-paying jobs, “but in tourism you tend to have a lot of lower-paying jobs”.
“I know it’s great as a GST grab, but it’s not necessarily great for this area – it puts a lot of pressure on the infrastructure.”
Tourism requires a big labour force, “yet they can’t afford to own houses, so it doesn’t make for a great social fabric”.
As to the solution, Botherway says he hasn’t got any great ideas.
“But I think a lot of people do have opinions and they should be heard, because people are really concerned about what’s happening.”