He’s among Queenstown’s biggest bankrupts – and he’s had a gutsful.
Former high-flying developer Rod Nielsen, in Queenstown on holiday from his Las Vegas base, today breaks his silence and hits back at his many critics.
A defiant Nielsen, 42, not only talks openly about his bankruptcy and regrets – he vows to rise again.
“Maybe not on the same scale and maybe not so publicly – and not with any debt. I can assure you I’ll definitely be back – it might not be in real estate.”
Nielsen says this visit – the second since his bankruptcy in 2009 – is so his three-year-old son can see grandparents here and in Auckland.
Mountain Scene can also reveal Nielsen – bankrupted in 2009 for $17 million – now has a total indebtedness of more than $34m, according to Official Assignee David Harte.
Mountain Scene: How often are you back in Queenstown?
Rod Nielsen: “About two or three times a year. (He later emails to say he travelled from Las Vegas back to Queenstown regularly prior to his bankruptcy in September, 2009, but this is just his second trip since then. The first was March, last year)
MS: Just for holidays?
RN: “Yep or to deal with whatever needed to be dealt with.”
MS: Feeling of dread when coming back to Queenstown after your bankruptcy?
RN: “No, everyone’s been pretty sympathetic. Everyone is well aware of what’s been happening in the world. Someone’s bankruptcy is in the news every single day in New Zealand at the moment. World affairs have dictated that the world got turned upside down and it’s happened to a lot of people. I’ve never had a problem coming back to Queenstown because I’ve never owed the man in the street any money. I’ve never had to worry about going into Monty’s for a beer thinking there’s a plumber or a builder there who I haven’t paid five thousand bucks to. All my construction was done through Naylor Love, I paid 100 cents in the dollar. Never disputed a bill once and paid all the debts for my construction for all my buildings in town. It’s not like there’s a string of creditors out there so coming back is quite easy. I’ve done nothing wrong. I built some beautiful buildings here, some quality buildings, there was never any issues at the buildings – architecturally they were designed beautifully.”
MS: What has your stamp?
RN: Lake Esplanade Village, Heritage Villas, six Cashmere Villa houses up Queenstown Hill…they sold for 1.5 million to 1.7m each. Walter Peak, the subdivision is actually completed. Although Walter Peak, from a financial point of view, the receivership hit the press, we actually completed the subdivision. All the roads are in, titles are issued. If someone went over there they would actually see a beautiful subdivision. It’s not like it went into receivership halfway through – it went into receivership purely at the end of the development when the residue debt got too high and there were massive problems there with the titles unbeknownst to us at the time of settling. Our funder, their lawyers had failed to pick up a restricted covenant on the titles and as a result none of our purchasers would settle. And then Strategic, they had no choice but to put it into receivership. I was about to launch a massive lawsuit against them.
MS: Did you?
RN: No because once the company went into receivership we lost the ability to, and obviously I was bankrupted and as a bankrupt I’m not allowed to personally sue people anyway. That’s why Mountain Scene keeps writing these articles – you know I can’t sue you (laughs).
MS: Your former business partner Justin Russell – you’ve fallen out with him?
RN: I haven’t seen him for a couple of years.
MS: Mates as well as business partners when you started out?
MS: Nothing to do with him now?
RN: No nothing. I don’t have a lot of respect for my previous business partners. Obviously there’s my brother who you guys keep writing about, he was bankrupted. It’s not how far you fall, it’s whether you get back up – and I don’t think these guys can get back up personally.
MS: And yourself?
RN: Of course. It’s in my nature. I worked for myself since the day I left university when I was 20. It’s in our nature to come back – maybe not on the same scale and maybe not so publicly – and not with any debt next time round. I can assure you I’ll definitely be back in some manner – it might not be in real estate but I have to keep working.
MS: In the development/real estate game?
RN: I spent twenty years in it, had a lot of success…the hard part about all this is I had a 20-year career which ended with my bankruptcy. It’s not like I just got into it a few years ago. I have an enormous ability to get back into it when I get out of bankruptcy, but it’s just whether I want to or not…I’m a little bit older now.
MS: What was it like for you the day you got made bankrupt?
RN: My honest opinion is it was a relief. It’s the six months leading up to the bankruptcy that’s the hard part – you know at that point you are going to be taken down. That’s when the people who are trying to bankrupt you are getting the most aggressive and it’s the last six months in the courts when they are aggressively trying to do it. And unfortunately in New Zealand if they think you’ve overstepped the line and try to bankrupt you then all these personal phone calls happen in a negative manner obviously and I suppose the day you’re bankrupted all the phone call stops and all the negativity stops because they can no longer get to you and have got no right to call you and abuse you. That’s all the financiers, people who want their money back. So you no longer have to deal with anything. It’s actually quite peaceful, believe it or not. They are not allowed to come near you. I only had to deal with finance company receivers. As I said I’m not dealing with the good guy plumber owed $8000. I never had that. I never had that barrage of personal abuse that some people have had in the development game. The guy in the street who worked on a project and hasn’t been paid, those are the guys, rightfully so. who have the right to be pissed off. Naylor Love always paid their guys and always will – and I always paid Naylor Love.
MS: What did you do immediately when bankrupted?
RN: I went out and had a beer. I actually did. I was up in the States…I think I was in LA at the time…with a couple of good friends up there from New Zealand.
MS: Big night?
RN: No, I’m not a big drinker. You take stock, you go to bed, you wake up and not much actually changes – you have to accept that society will now judge you and I think the hardest part – and a lot of people don’t get to this unfortunately – is the first thing you have to do is you have to accept it. You can’t bear a grudge, you can’t be a bitter man about it. I know people who are bankrupted, I have friends who are bankrupted, who a year later are still sitting there over a beer trying to explain why they shouldn’t have been bankrupted and that the world’s unfair and life’s a bitch. That’s the wrong attitude. Your bankruptcy is decided by the courts, they’ve got the information in front of them and on that basis you have to accept the courts have decided you should be bankrupt so the quicker you accept that the quicker you can move on with your life. And the best advice you are given is keep a low profile, head down, stay away from the public domain because every time you are having a beer somewhere like down at Monty’s someone will ring the press and tell them.
MS: Did you think you should have been bankrupted, you think it was fair?
RN: Absolutely. I didn’t deserve it – it was unfortunate. I think if all these finance companies adopted a different approach where they maybe sit on the land a little bit longer rather than try to sell it in a mortgagee sale and ride it out for three or four years – because the cycle will come back again. Time and history have proven that. They could get a lot more for these assets but unfortunately most of these finance companies went into receivership and the receiver had the job to collect the money on behalf of the shareholders and the creditors and they have to sell the assets and at the end of it there’s a shortfall and that’s where we signed personal guarantees – and the personal guarantees are given for a reason: that is if you can’t pay it back they come after you personally. The only downside of bankruptcy in New Zealand is it should only be a financial punishment [but] it’s the way society works, people think it should be deemed a social punishment. I don’t know what people think we should do – sit at the end of the lake all day and throw stones into it or read a book I’m not sure. We are allowed to go out and a have a beer – it’s not against the law and we’re certainly not criminals.
MS: Sure, but a lot of mum and dad investors in those finance companies with which you were involved?
RN: I never borrowed money off the ma and pas. I borrowed money off the finance companies themselves. A lot of these finance companies got their wholesale money off banks as well…so…
MS: But you can make the leap and say those companies lost their money because of their involvement with people like you doing things that didn’t work out?
RN: Oh, I’ve had this debates for hours…but it’s the old argument no one set out to lose the money. When I bought a property, I got third-party valuers in to have a look at it, the finance companies agreed to those valuations and then got their own people to come and look at it. They had very strict under-writing in place, subsequently got their own valuation team in to look at it and the decision is made normally by committee that the project is robust enough to withstand the loan you’re taking out. They never lent us the money on the basis they were going to lose it. I never borrowed it on the basis I was going to lose it.
MS: What’s your message to ma and pa investors involved with Bridgecorp upset with you for your involvement, what would you say to them?
RN: I haven’t actually had to answer that question before, as direct as that…I’d say I actually do feel sorry for them all, I genuinely do. I think the whole things’ a mess what’s happened in New Zealand but unfortunately I think it’s going to happen again. Give it five to ten to twelve years, the same cycle.
MS: You don’t feel any personal remorse on your part?
RN: I absolutely do. There’s not a day I don’t get up and think about it. You have to. If you didn’t you’d be a bit cold and heartless to be honest. But you then realise there’s nothing you can do about it either. I lost a twenty-year career and put a lot of money into these projects personally…so I lost multi-million dollars in these projects. It’s not like the finance companies lost money and I haven’t. I lost a considerable fortune in these deals. And you also think about that.
MS: How much did you lose?
RN: Never worked it out. I lost a substantial amount for sure.
MS: After you were judged bankrupt for $17m…there were more claims on top…can you talk about the size?
RN: No, never inquired. I’ve never looked at my bankruptcy report. What’s there to look at? You can’t look back, you’ve got to get through the day. I don’t sit on the internet and read Mountain Scene articles [about me] either. It’s not something you get out of bed and spend all day looking at. You’ve got to get out of bed and be positive and keep moving. The only reason you’ve heard from me now is I’m being judged by someone convicted of downloading child pornography.
MS: The Heritage Villas landscaping bond of $150,000…who is paying that, where’s the money coming from?
RN: It’s been a deal brokered with the new owner who agreed to do it because they don’t want any issues up there. Just like they’ve agreed to build the swimming pool and spa pool for the villa owners as well – as per the original contract. There’s a perception I tried to avoid doing a better landscaping job which really annoys me. We did the landscaping.
MS: It’s just tussosck.
RN: That’s all it was ever meant to be. When we started the landscaping I got approached by council basically who asked me if I’d be so kind as to build a petanque course for Queenstown. And I said yes, and it cost me $18,000.
MS: I didn’t think there was any such thing as a petanque course…don’t you just play where you are…no need for a course?
RN: There’s a professionally-designed petanque course up there that cost me $18,000 – that was after I started the landscaping contract. So if I was going to go cheapskate on the landscaping, why am I putting up my hand and building a petanque course and writing out a cheque for $18,000?
MS: Well that’s an argument between you and the landscaping company.
RN: I was overseas, buildings get completed, plans were submitted to the landscaping company, it gets finished, gets code of compliance it’s all done, and I give a $150,000 bond to Bridgecorp, they lodge a bond with council which council accepted and three or four years later I get a phone call saying the landscaping’s not up to scratch. Well, why was it issued a code of compliance if it wasn’t up to scratch?
MS: That’s the same question the villa owners have been asking.
RN: Exactly. And I didn’t even know about it.
MS: Well we’ve given council plenty of beans over that.
RN: Yeah, and what am I meant to do? Bridgecorp then bankrupt me over the $150,000 I owe them for it…and what am I meant to do – repay it? And even if I could, people would say, well, where did you get the money from? I’ve done my best now, I’ve brokered a deal now for $140,000 to be paid to the council. And that’s a great result.
MS: Where is that money coming from?
RN: From the people who bought the land. I’ve said to them you don’t want to fight it, it’s getting quite messy as you know.
MS: Who has bought the land?
RN: I’m doing it through my solicitor in Auckland. So I don’t actually know the guy. They’ve been in contact and I’ve said you don’t want to go to court over this…you’ve got a good deal on the land from what I can tell…you’ve just got to pay it and they’ve agreed to do it. They’ve got to work with council. I’ve got no thanks for this and nor do I want any. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what I do, I’m not going to get any thanks. I spent tens of millions of dollars on construction in this town. We contributed a lot. I had a lot of respect for Queenstown when I came in here…and all I did was with respect. I only built quality projects. I spent a lot of money in this town…tens and tens of millions of dollars. I provided a lot of employment, I built buildings, I leased buildings, we always paid our bills.”
MS: And your critics Fred Bramwell and Wayne Gore?
RN: There’s only two or three people running around saying I’m a dog – one is Gore, one is Bramwell. If I can knock these guys on the head I hope to knock the criticism. For Bramwell to comment like he has it just makes me a little bit sick. I’ve let it run for a couple of years because I just didn’t want my name to keep reappearing in the paper so I decided not to contact you. But I think this time they’ve all gone a bit too far.
MS: The Insolvency and Trustee Service is saying your United States operation had failed?
RN: No the land is still retained by the original people who put the money into it – they are pushing on and doing the development. I’m no longer involved in it myself.
MS: What are you going to do in the States?
RN: I’ve got a number of other of opportunities which I’ve developed over time that are non-real estate based. For obvious reasons I’m not going to disclose them. Real estate is too tough at the moment.
MS: From correspondence with the ITS you were looking to get back here to work.
RN: “No, absolutely not. I wished you guys had phoned me first before doing that article. What it was is I got a phone call from someone who I won’t name, a real estate developer, a financial institution, in Auckland, where they had a large project which was quickly going pearshaped for a lot of money. It was the middle to last quarter of last year. They said what are the chances of you helping us out, we were good to you a couple of years ago, we’re really in deep shit with this person, would you consider coming back for three to six months and advising us what to do, we’ve got tens and tens of millions of dollars at stake with these people. I said it’s not that easy, if I want to do that and you could reward me adequately, I’d need permission to work in the real estate sector in New Zealand..so let me suss it out. I rang the ITS up and couldn’t tell them exactly what the opportunity was and they said we might have a problem with you re-entering the industry here because obviously of the perception you failed the first time around – we don’t want you back in the same position again.
I fully understand. ITS said you’ve got to give us a pretty good reason for us to let you back into the industry and I said well, sob story, I need to feed my family, bullshit, bullshit, and she said well on that basis if you’re hard up we’d have to let you. So really what I was commenting on was a way to get her to say yes in a nice way.
MS: That could be seen as a bit of a swifty itself?
RN: No, no, no. it’s not like that. ITS are saying how do we justify telling the public? And I said well I need to make a living. Like anyone. Everyone still gets out of bed. I said I need to make a living. And they said ‘Fair enough, that’s probably a good enough reason’. And I said ‘well, put it down, I’ll get back to you on it. Anyway no deal was brokered with the firm to do it. They managed to unwind it and there was no need to come back and I never got in contact with ITS about it. I’m not working in NZ, I’ve got no desire to work here. I think the real estate cycle is too messy at the moment. I’ve never applied to formally work in NZ during my bankruptcy.
MS: Except for this time?
RN: It was testing the water more than anything. I am allowed to work. If I want to work on behalf of a company I have to get permission. I, in my own capacity as Rod Nielsen, can do whatever I want to do and if I earn over a certain amount of money the balance goes to any creditors.
MS: Why can’t you tell me about what you’re doing over in the US now?
RN: I don’t want it pricked and prodded and commented on…it’s no one’s business. I’ve got the right to work and make a living.
MS: But it won’t be in Vegas?
MS: Leaving Las Vegas?
MS: Got a place over there?
RN: I’ve lived in America for five to seven years now, America is home, although Queenstown is home home…I’m in middle of my working life and my opportunities are US based. America’s a great place, we love it there.
MS: Back in April, 2008 in an interview with Mountain Scene you were critical of tall popppy syndrome – do you regret that sentiment?
RN: Not at all. Look at the crap I get here. Most people in this town – in my opinion – have a lot of respect for what I’ve done here. You get a couple of bad apples, these armchair critics, who’ve normally done nothing with their lives – let’s be honest – it’s always easy to throw stones at people, especially when you’re sitting back and don’t contribute to society yourself, that’s what I call tall poppy. I just don’t understand why some people knock other people so much – especially businesspeople. No one goes into business to lose money, but without that risk you woudn’t have the bakery in Arrowtown or the FourSquare.
MS: Justice Heath in bankrupting you described you as “at best imprudent or at worst commercially irresponsible”. Your thoughts?
RN: Yes he made those comments, only for one reason. Not for my actions, or anything I’ve done wrong. The only thing he’s commenting on is hypothetical and that is I didn’t take adequate steps to protect myself if the market went down and I relied on a buoyant property market to see myself through.
MS: But everyone says that – if the market had stayed buoyant I would have been okay…isn’t it bad business for everything to hinge on a buoyant economy, why not build in a safety factor?
RN: The numbers and gearing people use is always substantially higher than what you can put in reserves. I’ve never seen a substantial development ever completed for cash…most put up 10 to 20 per cent of money and borrow the rest. We rely on a lot of intelligent people to say that the project is going to work. It’s great in hindsight to say we shouldn’t have done it.
MS: What about Heath’s comment: “Restrictions on his business activities, triggered by bankruptcy, are desireable”.
RN: I have no idea about it.
MS: His call for further investigation to determine whether post-bankruptcy restrictions are appropriate?
RN: They already have investigated while I’m under bankruptcy. I believe it was complete some time ago.
MS: There’s ITS’s ongoing involvement…relating to your alleged involvement in running Little Rock, the Heritage Villas management company.
RN: I completely dispute that, full stop, always have, always will.
MS: Nothing to fear there with them looking into your alleged involvement with Little Rock without you informing the Official Assignee?
RN: Not at all.
MS: The ITS documents we have say they twice threatened your lawyer with failing to release trust and company records?
RN: I completely disagree.
MS: You weren’t delaying your lawyers in releasing material?
RN: Absolutely not. I’ve always handed over everything within time, every time. I’ve got immaculate records – always have.
MS: Have you handed them over since they made that claim?
RN: There’s never been a claim. I do not think there’s ever been a claim. My solicitor who I’ve had for a long time has always been under the instruction from myself to help out whoever needs information – as long as it’s legitimate. That’s the first I’ve heard of that. Hand on heart that’s not correct. When I first meet ITS they said Rod the one good thing about you is you have absolutely impeccable records maintained from the top firms in New Zealand. We’ve always had full access to them and we’ve viewed them all and that’s why, from their point of view, it’s been quite an easy bankruptcy for them to work on.
MS: It begs the question, given they’ve made those statements…are you sheltering any assets in trusts?
RN: Absolutely not. They’ve thoroughly gone through them all. I’ve never had that complaint against me at all. Not once. There’s nothing untoward whatsoever. I’d be surprised if they said otherwise. Ring [ITS Auckland insolvency officer] Karen De Swardt and ask her…tell her she’s got my permission to talk. I pride myself on being straight up and above board.”
MS: Why the Auckland trip? Going to see the ITS?
RN: Not at all. Don’t need to see them again until I come out of bankruptcy.
MS: Before bankruptcy ends will you have another go at trying to work in real estate again?
RN: I never have had a go. I’ve never applied. And I’m not going to. I was ascertaining, because I had the opportunity in front of me, but at the same time I didn’t want to agree to it if I then had to go to all the trouble and the answer was no. I knocked on the door to see what the response would be. It doesn’t matter – it never got down to a question of being a response. I never found out. I will not be seeking any employment in New Zealand while I’m a bankrupt.
MS: As far as Vegas is concerned you’ve wiped your hands of any developments over there have you?
RN: I just don’t think it’s hit the bottom of the market yet, I think the cycle is still going down.
MS: So whatever you’re looking at getting involved in over there – that you won’t tell me about – it’s nothing to do with development?
RN: I’ll not be involved in real estate – especially in the US – for a long time. I just don’t want to get caught by the cycle. It takes a lot of time, by the time you look at a site, decide to buy it, to plan it, construct it, sell it, it’s three to five years. And the world’s a different place now to what it used to be. I think the cycles are going to be shorter and sharper. I no longer want to spend years doing hard work and be caught in 11th hour by the other end of the cycle and get back in the same situation I’ve been in before. That’s being a little more cautious, a bit more prudent and that’s probably because I’m a little bit older, a little bit wiser.
MS: Long term plan?
RN: Be good to my wife. I’m just a regular guy at the end of day. I’ve just got the same dreams and aspirations and needs as every other person. I don’t have a long-term goal. I’m not overly ambitious. Just a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work. I enjoy business…I enjoy the process of business. I particularly enjoy real estate development, the challenge of it.
MS: Do you hope long-term to return to real estate and do you think you’ll once again develop things like the Heritage Villas, like the Lake Esplanande apartments?
RN: Absolutely. But not in the next five years. I need a break from it. I would do it again if I didn’t have to borrow much or any money and – if the cycle occurred – I’d be able to just sit there and complete my development. As I said before I always completed my developments. I never left half-complete developments sitting on the side of the road. I’d never get myself into a situation again where I’d become a forced seller by the pressures applied by a financial institution. You’d have to control the asset yourself.
MS: Any regrets, things you’d do differently?
RN: “Oh absolutely. I wouldn’t have done so much. I’ve always employed very good people, always used the best consultants, I used the best construction firms ie Naylor Love, the best engineers, I always employed the best project managers, top accountants, top lawyers. I’ve always done that for the sole reason because I’ve always thought quite correctly that you get what you pay for. What I wouldn’t do again is I probably wouldn’t have done it multi country. I would have stayed in one country, in the US and done it solely there and wound down NZ prior – or I should have just stayed in NZ. Next time around I wouldn’t go multi country on it. It just gets too hard. And next time around I’d have stronger business partners – I’d have someone who could contribute financially rather than any other means.
MS: This trip…where are you staying, up in the plasma house on Queenstown Hill?
RN: Yep, up the hill.
MS: How long staying?
RN: Few weeks…taking my son to see his other set of grandparents in Auckland and they want to see him. And we’ll just see how it goes in the next few weeks – if it gets too cold we’ll probably leave.
(At this point Nielsen wanted to talk off the record to say it was unnecessary of Mountain Scene to mention his wife Sirene Millar as it has done in the past)
Back on the record…
RN: I accept I’m in the public domain. What I did was high profile. I don’t mind what you write about me as long as it’s factual. I will not stand for inaccurate information. I don’t know why you guys don’t call me and ask for my opinion.
MS: To be honest, we had an email exchange with you a while ago and weren’t 100 per cent sure that it was you and my colleague Frank Marvin asked you to supply a number and you didn’t supply it so there was no way we could get in touch.
RN: I wanted it in writing at that stage. I’ve never seen anyone else’s wife mentioned.
MS: That’s a long bow…she’s involved with Little Rock.
RN: Little Rock’s not in bankruptcy or receivership or liquidation or anything…it’s just a company.
MS: Yeah, but it is under investigation by the ITS for whether or not you have an involvement in it while a bankrupt.
RN: Oh yeah, but you know what I mean. I’d just appreciate it if you kept her out of it.
MS: We’re not being over the top by doing that though.
RN: Yep, but you guys are always writing something negative. Why don’t you write something positive?
MS: Let’s be realistic…if you go bankrupt for $17m we’re not going to write about your fantastic $18,000 petanque course.
RN: But this portrayal of real estate developers to be always in the negative light is not always good. Development is a reputable career for some people.
MS: Pound for pound we constantly cover positive stories about developments here, what’s coming up, what’s happening, you’d have experienced that yourself when things were going okay.
RN: I don’t have a string of creditors. I just don’t think there’s – well I hope not – that there’s a hard feeling towards me in this town. It is my town, I live here as well. We’ve only respected everyone here and the town. We’ve done nothing shady, never cut corners and it’s just unfortunate, you hear about these articles and think ‘That’s a bit unfair’.
MS: Your personal situation though – you’re leaving Montys in a black Range Rover, you’re over here on holiday for a month. How are you paying for the trip? Why have you got a Range Rover?
RN: What do you mean?
MS: Well you’re bankrupt but you’re obviously doing relatively okay to be able to afford that stuff?
RN: My wife’s got the car. Am I not allowed to go out for dinner and have a beer?
MS: You absolutely are but people are going to be seeing you swinging back and forth between here and Vegas, rolling up to the local pub.
RN: What should we be doing? Is it a social punishment where we should be sitting out in the lake, stripped naked and throwing stones in the water all day. We are allowed to work, we are allowed to earn a living. That is not denied. We have our own arrangement with the Insolvency and Trustees Service as to what the arrangement is when we hit a certain amount. I’m allowed to live overseas.
MS: Do you have to get clearance to go back from ITS?
RN: I’m not sure, but always out of respect I make sure I inquire and make sure it’s okay but I believe I’m allowed to go back to Las Vegas. Las Vegas has proven to be my main source of income and they don’t seem to have a problem with it. But I do out of respect ask before I leave, as per NZ law. I’ve not committed a criminal offence.
MS: Do you feel like you get treated like one?
RN: No, the only people I get a hard time from are Mountain Scene. All the people I come across in Queenstown, either having a beer or sitting in a restaurant, they always come and have a chat and most people pass on their sincere best wishes and say they’re sad to see it turned out the way it did. I’ve never had a bad word said to me. Most people say aren’t you just over the articles about you, why can’t they just move on.
MS: So no Rod Petricevic type angst in public?
RN: There’s no need for me to have that. I don’t have any creditors – I’ve paid all my bills. Don’t forget I employed a lot of people. People say Rod I feel sorry for you and I say don’t say sorry for me.
MS: You can’t say you paid all your bills or you wouldn’t have been bankrupted.
RN: No we paid our our bills. And like you say, I haven’t had a Rod Petricevic incident because I don’t have the hardworking plumber who hasn’t been paid come up to me in a bar. I don’t get that because I’ve always paid my bills. I fell down on the financing side. I feel sorry for my ex-staff who had to leave town. A number had to leave because they couldn’t get employment in town. They were earning very good money at the time. They had to leave Queenstown and start their lives elsewhere. I actually don’t feel sorry for myself because I know what to do to get back again – it’s just a matter of waiting my time and doing it in a different way.
MS: Hope to eventually return to Queenstown and live?
RN: I’d say we do live here…our son I’d imagine in the next three years will be here full time. This is my wife’s home town, it’s my home town. You ask me what does it feel like to return to Queenstown and walk around. After the amount of crap you guys have given me, most people are surprised I even come back – they say ‘Why don’t you disappear for three years?’. I say why? I don’t get a hard time when I come back to Queenstown, I have so many friends in Queenstown, it’s a great place for us to be, it’s a great space when we come back here. It’s a positive environment when I come back here. Why wouldn’t I? And we do come back as you know. I wish we could come back more but work wise I have to make a living and that’s up in the States.
MS: Your contribution to Queenstown?
RN: Positive. There’s actually no contribution per se. What I’ve done I’ve always done to the best of my ability and I’ve done well. And I believe some of the accommodation I’ve developed here is an asset for Queenstown. It brings a group of tourists who might not have otherwise have come and when they do come they get a great experience – like at the villas. That was a very unique development at the time and everyone told me it wouldn’t work…the people of Auckland etc love coming down here. It had never been done before in Queenstown, it set a benchmark. That’s what I feel my contribution to Queenstown is. It’s just a building at the end of the day. All my stuff is just buildings and people say there is no contribution but I disagree. I contributed a lot and I didn’t do it for any other reason than I enjoyed doing it.
MS: Anything else you want to say?
RN: There’s a lot of negative stuff going on in the world. I don’t think you need to keep going on about me – I’m not a very topical subject any more. People are tiring of it to be honest. People are saying why can’t you just leave the guy alone to get on with his life – I’ve been punished, I’ve been bankrupted and it’s not a crime. Why can’t I just get on with my life and be a normal person. I never set out to be anything other. All I did was come here and build some buildings and treat everyone with respect. Personally it didn’t work out and my bankruptcy doesn’t affect anyone else in Queenstown, doesn’t affect this town so hence I just don’t think… I just shouldn’t get any negative articles by you.