Farewell, Owen

Owen Genty-Nott with Dares Wins presenter Tania Zaetta

Highly-respected former Queenstown man Owen Genty-Nott, who founded the resort’s ambulance and chopper rescue services, died in Mt Maunganui last Thursday, aged 84.

Back in 1974, Owen brought his wife Merle and children Clinton and Danielle from Papua New Guinea to live in Queenstown.

He’d already clocked up many adventures in his native Australia, including working as a jackaroo, which he chronicled in a book, then in PNG, where his experiences as a plantation manager also formed a book.

In Queenstown, Owen took over the southern hemisphere’s original rafting operation, Kon Tiki Rafts, on the lower Shotover River.

He carried about 21,000 passengers over four summers.

Owen in the mountains with the air rescue team

Danielle says: “In the winters, because he had nothing to do, he used to convert his rafting van into an ambulance, and he volunteered for quite some time to haul bodies off Coronet Peak skifield, one of which was mine.”

Owen then convinced the then Southland Hospital Board to start a dedicated Queenstown ambulance service, which he headed up till he left town.

“Whenever there was a problem, it was always great when Owen turned up,” former local doctor John Hillock says.

“He was always someone for being inventive in dealing with things.”

Queenstown’s Jules Tapper says Owen was also instrumental in establishing Lakes District Air Rescue Trust in 1992 with the help of heli-operators and emergency organisations.

“His contribution, both as an operative crewman and as the secretary of the trust from its inception, was enormous.”

Owen was a very keen skier, too, and he and Merle also fostered Clinton and Danielle’s ski racing careers..

Former Wakatipu Ski Club president Wayne Cafe says he made a big contribution to the club in various roles.

Zealand’s medical rep at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada. Following his involvement with horses in Australia, as a rodeo competitor and a wrangler, he introduced ‘polocrosse’ to the resort in the ’80s.

Clinton says: “Owen may have had a quiet exterior, but he had a very dry and mischievous sense of humour.”

In 2003, two years after Merle died, Owen moved to Akaroa, initially, then Wellington, and then Mt Maunganui where he met and married Elaine in 2010.

A memorial service for him will be held tomorrow at the Queenstown Bowling Club, in the Gardens, from 4.30pm.