Big ticks from pioneer family

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A descendant of a founder of Queenstown’s redeveloped Mountaineer building has given the $35 million project a big thumbs-up.

The four-level structure on the corners of Shotover, Rees and Beach Streets opens as a swanky new multi-retail centre tomorrow after 20 months in the making.

Auckland-based businessman Graham Malaghan’s great-great-uncle Michael Malaghan first operated a general merchant’s store on the original site in the 1860s.

And the present-day Malaghan reckons his enterprising forefather would have approved of the new look.

“It’s brilliant the way the original façade has been kept,” he says. “My ancestors were early business pioneers in the Wakatipu and the redevelopment retains the ethos of the downtown area very well.”

Graham Malaghan’s late father Len – born in the resort and buried here – founded New Zealand ice-cream giant Tip Top.

The family moniker is still well-known in the region, with a number of streets and buildings bearing the Malaghan name.

“I still have a holiday house in Queenstown and have some good memories of the old Mountaineer building when it was a hotel,” Graham says.

“I remember an old character called Tom Robertson who was used by the publican in the 1970s to yarn and entertain tourists at the bar, for which he was fed and watered.

“He was a one-armed rabbiter who had never travelled any further than 30 miles from town in his entire life.
Malaghan adds: “Tom would be given a few old pony-sized glasses of beer and some food while he was entertaining the visitors and the publican would also get him a lift home at the end of the night.”