'All about the community': Simon Hayes

At Simon Hayes’ recent 70th birthday party, someone noted he’s that rare individual who thinks about his community all the time. He talks through his track gallops with PHILIP CHANDLER, and reveals who was happy about him losing three bids for the  mayoralty

Many people hailed for their community contributions achieve just a fraction of what Simon Hayes has done.

Queenstown’s ‘Mr Community’, he heads up, as it were, two national charities, one, Heads Up for Kids, based on unearthing old New Zealand and foreign currency, has raised almost $1 million for outdoor youth education, while he also chairs the Abbeyfield trust that provides affordable housing for older people.

The newly-minted 70-year-old was also behind the former $10 Queenstown Challenge
event that raised millions.

Hayes attributes his community-mindedness to his parents’ involvement in the small Australian town, Nyah, he grew up in, five hours north of Melbourne.

After his schooling there, and in bigger Swan Hill, he attended Melbourne’s La Trobe University, but only for a year — ‘‘I was an absolute screaming failure’’.

He then worked as a trainee manager in food and catering for the huge Myers emporium
for three years.

Coming to NZ for a friend’s wedding, he thought he’d stay on for about a year.

After hotel jobs in Franz Josef and Te Anau, he worked at Christchurch’s former Russley Hotel, where he met his wife-to-be, Ngaire — ‘‘she thinks I’m still on a working holiday’’.

Hayes then worked in hotel management for Lion Breweries around NZ, then, after the
couple holidayed in Europe, ran a chartered club in Rangiora.

He next successfully applied to run Skyline’s gondola and restaurant in Queenstown,  commencing January 1, 1986.

After an enjoyable six or so years, he saw Professionals Fisken & Associates realtor Bob
Jack about a possible business purchase.

‘‘Within the space of about two hours he convinced me I should be working for him.’’

For 28 years now, latterly with Harcourts, he’s carved out a very successful real estate career — ‘‘sure, it’s about houses, but it’s really about people’’.

Speaking of which, Hayes got stuck into community affairs from his early Queenstown days, initially with the under-40s Jaycees before graduating to the Lions club which he’s still heavily involved in.

With his three children going to Queenstown Primary, he chaired the school’s PTA, and
then its board of trustees, over seeing projects like a hall extension and classroom additions.

He chaired the St Joseph’s Church parish council and the Dalefield water supply scheme
and was a golf club committee member.

He also served six years as a Queenstown Lakes district councillor, including a term as
deputy mayor after winning a coin toss, due to a split vote, with councillor Jerry  Hohneck.

He also ran three times for the mayoralty against Warren Cooper, Clive Geddes and
Vanessa van Uden — ‘‘I ran second on each occasion, much to my wife’s relief’’.

Hayes says he was also approached to stand six years ago — ‘‘I was bloody relieved when Jim Boult put his name forward’’.

Though he likens council decision-making processes to ‘‘turning around an aircraft carrier’’, he believes he was the first councillor to suggest forming a film office.

And he was behind moves to privatise the council’s consents regime, before legislation later pulled the rug on it.

That move, he says, solved what he believes is the perennial problem with local and central government bureaucracies — their inability to be proactive and look for solutions.

‘‘It’s incredibly frustrating and expensive for lots of people to do stuff.’’

Hayes, however, didn’t need the mayoralty to make his mark on the resort, and has  been deservedly awarded both the Rotary and Lions clubs’ highest honours — the Paul Harris and Melvin Jones fellowships, respectively.

He was behind forming a trust for the $10 Challenge, for example, that saw it raise  more than $3m for Cure Kids and about $250,000 for local good causes.

He dreamt up the idea of making money from old money, for the Heads Up for Kids charity, that’s still only scratched the surface, he says.

And, after chairing the local Abbeyfield committee that got a Frankton facility built, he oversees 14 Abbeyfields as the national chair.

However, he shrugs off his huge involvement in community affairs — ‘‘that’s what makes the world go round’’.

‘‘I think we’ve made our contribution, but, I mean, that’s just what you do.

‘‘The thing that does piss me off is people that don’t make any contribution to society and just take all the benefits.

‘‘Queenstown’s been good to me, I think we’ve been been good to Queenstown.’’