Another Queenstowner throws hat in ring to be MP


Local lawyer and ex-councillor Russell Mawhinney is the third Queenstowner pitching to become Bill English’s successor as MP.

Mawhinney, 53, today confirmed to Mountain Scene he’s put his name forward for the National Party nomination for the safe seat of Clutha-Southland.

Other than a brief confirmation, a tight-lipped Mawhinney refused all further comment on his candidature.

The affable lawyer joins two other local hopefuls, airport customs officer Craig Allan and marketing consultant Mark Wilson. Allan is a former chairman of the Young Nationals.

Mawhinney was a one-term local councillor, standing down at last October’s election.

When elected in 2010, Mawhinney scored the most votes of all council newcomers – well ahead of fellow lawyer Simon Stamers-Smith.

Characterised as a family man, Mawhinney is also a cricket nut.

The former Otago fast bowler was a natural to lead last year’s bid for Queenstown to host Cricket World Cup games – Mawhinney said he was “gutted” when the resort missed out.

Mawhinney has twice hit Mountain Scene headlines as a lawyer – and not in a good way.

In August 2012, he was pinged $16,000 by the New Zealand Law Society for inappropriately pressuring an ex-client to drop a complaint.

“I’m disappointed with the decision, I’m disappointed with myself for getting myself in that position – and I just have to accept it and move on,” he told the paper at the time.

“The person who laid the complaint has shafted a lot of people in this town so my judgment was probably clouded a bit,” Mawhinney said, adding the ex-client still owed him thousands of dollars.

In May last year, Mawhinney’s firm Preston Russell Law was ordered to pay $105,000 by the High Court after fluffing a complicated Auckland house purchase for a former Arrowtown couple.

Mawhinney and his legal assistant handled the house purchase.

Back to election hopefuls, Queenstown Chamber of Commerce boss Ann Lockhart also confirms she’s been considering putting her name forward as a Clutha-Southland candidate.

However, Lockhart says she’s “probably not” going to be a starter.

Lockhart became chamber chief executive in June 2008 after a top-level corporate career, including senior positions with Pacific Brands, Reuters Financial and Fairydown.

All three confirmed Queenstowners will face an uphill battle to win selection as Clutha-Southland candidate.

Mountain Scene has been told as many as 20 hopefuls from throughout the large electorate are vying for the prized candidature of the blue-chip seat.

Given English’s current 16,000 majority, the successful candidate is almost guaranteed to be elected.