Henry’s big night

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After 30 years of thrills, bungy boss Henry van Asch has received the resort’s ultimate business honour.

The AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand co-founder and managing director was awarded a a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce Westpac Business Excellence Awards, held at Skyline on Saturday.

Chamber chair Craig Douglas presented the award on behalf of the board at the Great Gatsby-themed black-tie bash, attended by Queenstown’s business big-wigs.

Van Asch’s company will celebrate its 30th anniversary this coming Monday.

He recalled on the first day, he and co-founder AJ Hackett, who later parted ways, hosted 28 bungy jumpers, and that along with supporters there were also some sceptics, among them “my good friend and esteemed mayor Jim Boult”.

Boult was mowing his lawn when the opening day cavalcade went past “and Jim thought, ‘Oh, just another bloody stupid idea, that’s never going to last”‘.

“When we did start, Queenstown did get a large boost … and I figured it made a big difference to Queenstown’s future at a time when it needed a bit of revival, and we were glad to be able to provide a catalyst to lead the adventure tourism boom.”

Cardrona won the Supreme Business of the Year Award, and also the large business of the year and workplace safety awards.

In her victory speech, general manager Bridget Legnavsky thanked retiring chamber CEO Ann Lockhart for inviting the ski resort, which is closer to Wanaka, into the Queenstown business community.

Legnavsky told the audience of almost 300: “This means so much to us, but I think the big thing for us is that we got wings five years ago when Real Journeys bought us.”

Richard Lauder, chief executive of Real Journeys parent company, Wayfare Group, said: “We discovered some gems at Cardrona, and it wasn’t just the mountain, it was the people.”

He singled out Legnavsky, whom in an earlier speech he called “the greatest leader in this part of the world”.

He added: “Our business strategy of moving into summer and being able to expand into an organisation that now employs 50 to 60 people fulltime makes such a big difference in terms of continuity, in terms of delivering innovation and performance.”

The award judges said Cardrona stood out for its strength in all aspects of its business, including product range, environmental sustainability, com-munity support, staff training and engagement, health and safety, and financial performance.

Other award winners were: SME business of the year, Erik’s Fish & Chips; excellence in tourism, activities or events, Active Adventures; excellence in construction, trade or services, Warren & Mahoney Architects.

Sofitel Queenstown Hotel was recognised for excellence in hospitality or accommodation; Ocula for excellence in professional services; First Table for innovation; and Heritage Hotel, employer of the year.