Just bring it on

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Simon Green has unfinished business.

He quit as Queenstown’s Winter Festival boss after a shambolic 2007 event, disrupted by a snowstorm.
That led to the opening night’s cancellation, guests and bands unable to fly in on schedule and major programme disruptions to the 10-day event.

“There was a lot of unfinished business, a lot of stuff I had planned that didn’t happen,” Green says.

Two years on, he’s convinced he’s made a good personal move to return and run the resort’s 2010 winter-opening party for a record fifth time – even if wife Amy isn’t so sure.

“I don’t think my wife is quite convinced yet,” he reflects.

It’s easy to understand why.

Green’s just signed up for one of the most unenviable jobs in town, not to mention becoming an employee of Destination Queenstown – an organisation in the midst of serious soul searching.

On top of that, Green says part of the reason he quit in 2007 was “event burnout” and he admits finding sponsorship funding right now is also going to be tough.

So remind us why you’ve signed up again.

Well, for starters, 37-year-old Green says he’s had a “watershed” year.

Back in April, he had an emotional first meeting with a secret elder brother, Christchurch company director Murray Strong, born to the same parents but adopted out at birth.

Green says sharing details with Strong of their separate past lives is one of the catalysts for his return.

“It opened my eyes a little bit that I wasn’t heading in the direction that somewhere deep down inside I knew I should be.”

Not that he bemoans his time at Southern Lakes Real Estate, where he was primarily involved in project marketing. Green says leaving Southern Lakes is bittersweet because he enjoyed the company culture, but he says being away from managing events such as Winter Festival made him realise how much he missed that.

“It has reinforced to me that I need this as part of my life – the creative stuff, as well as the business and marketing aspects.”

He’s not bothered about arriving at DQ on the cusp of boss Stephen Pahl’s shock departure, or as questions about DQ’s structure and value are being raised by groups such as the Chamber of Commerce.

“I think it’s a valuable debate. There’s grey areas with DQ, the chamber and council so any constitutional review that can reduce those is good from anyone’s perspective.

“If anything, I quite like the fact people are starting to talk about Queenstown Inc again.”

Green expects festival funding challenges, however.

“It’s going to be a hard road. [This year] was tough for sponsorship.

“That landscape won’t change for 2010, it won’t change for 2011. The pot is only so big and it’s never been smaller.”

He’s not giving anything away about his plans for new events and changes. All he’ll say is the festival has “good bones”.

One thing he’s happy about is his salary package. Previously he’s run the event as a contractor and had to busy himself drumming up other work to make it viable.

This time around he’ll be a salaried full-time DQ employee with a bonus payment linked to certain objectives. He won’t elaborate on those or disclose his pay cheque.

“I don’t need to be chasing too much other stuff to be able to do it. In the past it was always a contract and as a consequence you had to do a lot of other stuff, but I was probably turning away more work than what festival was compensating me for.”

Most of all, Green’s keen to make an impact and let people know the Queenstown brand is alive and well.
“The challenges I’m looking forward to are increasing further and building on the reach of festival – the impact and contribution it makes to the brand of Queenstown and its image.”