Trustee sits on sideline

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A Snow Farm co-owner sits on a Queenstown trust granted $400,000 of public money to help buy the ski area’s land. 

Mary Lee, who founded the Snow Farm in the Cardrona Valley with husband John, is one of five trustees on the Pisa Alpine Charitable Trust which is fundraising to buy the Lees out. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council announced on Tuesday that it has granted $412,516 to the trust. 

Fellow trustee John Alexander defends Mary Lee remaining as a trustee, saying it’s all above board. 

“She’s been excluded from any negotiations over the purchase of the Snow Farm – because she’s obviously an owner. 

“She’s in there as a trustee for the future, for advice and expertise relating to the sport,” he says. 

Alexander says they need to raise a further $1-$2 million and plan to tap community trusts. 

Once the land is bought, it’ll be vested in the community and QLDC will then grant the trust an operating lease to run the business. 

The Snow Farm makes a small profit from its specialised Nordic skiing, Alexander says. 

Its highest-profile fan, former prime minister Helen Clark, has given QLDC’s funding kick-start the thumbs-up, saying she hopes it “will inspire others to donate”. 

Has Clark herself donated? 

“No, she hasn’t yet – because we haven’t approached any individuals,” Alexander says.