From Las Vegas to China to Houston…to Sheriff’

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Let’s go, big Brice 

Had an enjoyable chinwag this week with Queenstown export and fighter Brice Ritani. He’s now Las Vegas-based and hitting the headlines ahead of his much-publicised fight against rising Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker. 

Ritani was happy to talk about everything from his strong chin to missing Fergburgers and his minor Queenstown drug conviction (see p4-5). 

I remember seeing Ritani training at Queenstown Gym when he lived here five years ago and he’d always acknowledge you with a cool nod of the head even though you might never have actually met him. Ritani’s an easy guy to like, seems pretty humble and focused – and I hope he goes all right in the ring despite confessing he’s more of a Mixed Martial Arts fighter than a boxer. 

He’s the underdog heading into the bout against Parker, who is supposedly using Ritani as warm-up fodder for veteran heavyweight Francois Botha. 

It’d be great to see Ritani, who met wife Sophie Hyde here and considers himself a Queenstowner – despite growing up in Timaru (“a shithole”, he tells me) – do well. 

Yo Yao … good job 

Most of us have probably never heard of Yao Chen. 

However, wedding photos of the Chinese acting starlet at Queens­town’s St Peter’s Church have sparked a frenzy of couples keen to have their wedding or pictures at the chapel, as our story on page 9 shows. 

It illustrates the power of social media – she has 32 million followers on China’s version of Twitter – and why junket visits from the likes of Indonesian celebrity chef Farah Quinn can be important tools for boosting visitor markets to the Wakatipu … y’know, if you want to see Queenstown visitor numbers boosted. 

Houston, no problem … yet 

Things are a long way from the ‘Houston, we have a problem’ stage but a second apparent balls-up in council’s review will raise eyebrows (p4). 

Council finance boss Stewart Burns has queried a claim in the review draft – repeated in Mountain Scene last week – that the Queenstown Lakes district has a relatively high number of rates arrears compared to other districts. 

Burns, who would know, told a finance committee meeting on Tuesday plenty of councils have a higher percentage of arrears than Queenstown – and it’s not a problem locally. 

The draft called for analysis into why the area had a “relatively higher” rate of arrears, but that was dropped from a final report. 

Still, it comes on the back of a separate confusing blunder in which the report author admitted failing to count campground staffers in a draft table outlining job number changes. 

Semantics maybe, but let’s hope these are the only flaws … 

Say it again, Regan 

Mountain Scene has been consistently impressed down the years by the florid verbal contributions to its pages of colourful local Regan Pearce. 

But the AJ Hackett Bungy sales boss and reigning Wakatipu Premiers captain has set himself a very high threshold after this week’s pearler in our rugby coverage on page 18 this week. 

In case you don’t read the Sports pages and missed it, here’s Pearce ruminating on his hopes the team will play well for a full 80 minutes this Saturday: “From when the whistle blows, we’re wanting to start well, finish well and have a good middle – much like a good Margaret Mahy book.” 

That’s right up with one of his greatest hits from 2012. 

Ahead of the season final last year, with the coveted White Horse Cup already locked away in the trophy cabinet, Pearce memorably noted: “It’s great to have tucked that away … but now we’re ready to put the duvet on.”