Queenstown’s mayoral race is shaping up as the most hotly contested in decades.
Mountain Scene can reveal celebrated film director Roger Tompkins is seeking the town’s top job.
He joins ex-local councillor John Mann, Queenstown businessman Jim Boult, Wanaka-based deputy mayor Lyal Cocks and Glenorchy’s Al Angus in the race to replace Vanessa van Uden.
Van Uden is stepping down at October’s council elections.
Tompkins, 64, directed, produced and co-conceived Tourism NZ’s world-renowned, long-lasting ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ campaign.
That’s helped lure record visitor numbers to the district.
But Tompkins believes that tourism’s growth rate is unsustainable under the current council model.
“We’ve become victims of our own success, which is absolutely nuts. We should be winners of our success.”
He vows to bring Queenstown “back to beautiful”.
Tompkins says the resort’s bursting at the seams and people can’t afford to live in the towns they grew up in.
“I believe a lot of the older residents of the town are hugely concerned about what’s happening, but I also believe the young, middle- and working-class families who are the spine of this town are equally worried.”
A resident for 18 years, and ratepayer for 32 years, he says he can’t be a bystander any more – “I have to do something”.
“Trees are being cut down willy-nilly and ugly tilt-slab monstrosities are popping up in their place.
“This isn’t about stopping progress, it’s about development without detriment.”
Developments, he says, should fit in with the alpine environment, and existing eyesores should be mitigated against, for example with earth-berming and tree-planting.
Tompkins says his first priority would be sorting out worker housing - “more accommodation means lower rents, but it doesn’t mean lower standards”.
He suggests the council, as a landowner, work with hotel owners and operators and major tourism businesses to solve the problem.
His second priority is traffic congestion.
He has a possible quick short-term fix and a lasting long-term plan, but won’t unveil them till the campaign’s under way.
Asked his view on the council’s stalled convention centre plan, he says other infrastructure projects are more of a priority.
“I think it’s about time we gave the ratepayers a break and asked the tourists to pay their fair share of the privilege of visiting our slice of paradise.”
Tompkins has a local tourism pedigree, having started the first cycle touring company on the Otago Central Rail Trail, Off The Rails, and owns a high-end travel company, Our Man in New Zealand.
From his experience directing thousands of TV commercials, he believes he can lead and inspire a team of councillors “to share a vision and work together to bring it to life”.
His clients have included some of the world’s biggest brands, like Apple, Pepsi, Ford, MasterCard and Land Rover, and he’s directed big names like Richie McCaw, Erin Brockovich, Sam Neill, Bruno Lawrence and Rachel Hunter, and huge acts like Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath.
However the award-winning director, who grew up on the back lot of England’s Pinewood Studios, says he’s proudest of his work for Kiwi brands like Fresh-Up, Marmite, Vogel’s and Steinlager along with the Speight’s Southern Man campaign.
His wife Nicky unsuccessfully stood for council in 2004.