Nelson steals big event off resort


Queenstown’s biggest annual conference is pulling out of the resort after 25 years.

Queenstown Research Week organisers confirm next year’s event will be held in Nelson.

They’ve cited a lack of space in Queenstown and blame the local council for dragging its heels on plans for a convention centre.

Deputy mayor Lyal Cocks says council staff worked hard to find a suitable venue - asking other major events to move.

But QRW organiser Peter Shepherd accuses the council of not taking its concerns seriously.

“It’s called Queenstown Research Week - it’s going to look a bit strange being in another place.”

The conference usually attracts about 1000 scientists from across the country and most stay at least two nights.

Renovation at QRW’s usual haunt, Rydges Lakeland Resort, means it has nowhere to go.

Shepherd, a professor of molecular biology at the University of Auckland, says that’s a lot of lost dosh for the resort.

Shepherd tells Mountain Scene he desperately wants the event to stay in Queenstown.

The possibility of a conference centre in the resort isn’t being pursued with great vigour, he says.

“Council should be rattling the cages in Wellington to see how they can really get something going here.”

Cocks says the council successfully negotiated with three other major events - Songstars, Gay Ski Week and the NZ Property Council - to move so QRW could be held at Queenstown Memorial Centre.

Shepherd emailed Cocks to say the event will come back to the resort and expand if the council goes ahead with a convention centre.

Cocks: “We are still waiting to hear the outcome of our requests to the government and other external funding agencies for support towards the Queenstown convention centre.”

Behind the scenes, organisers frantically tried to find alternatives - none of which came off, despite bringing the issue up with council head honchos.

In August, Shepherd told the Otago Daily Times: “We would come to Queenstown if we had to do the thing in a tent.”

But Dinamics Events boss Alastair McIlwrick says that won’t work.

“We looked around Queenstown for alternatives - we looked at Memorial Centre and putting a marquee on the Recreation Ground but none of it fitted.

“The major issue is we need meeting rooms in conjunction with sponsorship space.”

He reckons people are desperate to come to Queenstown but says it’s a compromise when they do because of limited space. He also criticises the council, saying: “That is what they are employed to do, or voted in to do.”

McIlwrick says the council needs to get a move-on and make a decision about a conference centre in the resort.

Plans for a council-backed conference centre at Lakeview are dormant while the council waits for funding applications to the government and trusts.

Earlier this year, some Queenstown business owners – bracing for huge rates hikes - turned against a council-backed convention centre, worried about long-term costs.