Millbrook founder, judge honoured


When Japanese businessman Eiichi Ishii first set foot on run-down Mill Farm, near Arrowtown, he was confronted by the body of a dead sheep.

But he was astonished by Queenstown’s mountainous beauty – which he thought was “hidden from the world”.

He set about changing that and established Millbrook Resort on the farm.

Now Ishii is being honoured for his services to golf and tourism, as well as improving New Zealand-Japan relations.

Eiichi Ishii (pictured with wife Hiroko)
Queenstown and Tokyo
Services to New Zealand-Japan relations, golf and tourism

Of his inclusion in the New Year Honour list, Ishii, 77, says: “I feel very honoured.”

He is a Japanese citizen but New Zealand is a big part of his life.

For two decades he has visited Queenstown four times a year and he has applied for permanent New Zealand residency.

“I’m very much honoured to be recognised as a person who made some contribution to New Zealand – and that is one step towards being qualified to be a global citizen. That’s the way I look at it.”

He adds: “My family loves New Zealand as well – not only my wife but two of my children and my grandchildren as well. I think they may love here more than they do Japan.”

Millbrook might never have happened.

It faced bankruptcy in 1990, three years after inception. Mr Ishii stepped in and became the development’s guarantor.

Now the resort is on a roll.

This year it bought the neighbouring 66ha Dalgleish Farm, with plans to develop more homes and another nine-hole course, it is marketing its latest homes in an eight-home subdivision called The Pioneers.

Its manicured golf course already co-hosts the New Zealand Open tournament.

Following a new underwriting deal, from 2017 Millbrook will take turns hosting the final rounds of the prestigious event with neighbouring course The Hills, owned by jeweller Sir Michael Hill.

Over the years, Millbrook has hosted British royalty and United States President Bill Clinton during the 1995 Commonwealth heads of government meeting.

How does Millbrook today compare with his original vision?

Ishii: “This is exactly what I wanted to happen. I wanted to create a place where people can keep coming back and enjoy staying here and enjoy, maybe, playing golf, tennis or skiing.”

Judge John James Dashwood Strettell
For services to the judiciary

Judge John Strettell’s honour goes beyond a personal acknowledgement.

He believes it “recognises the way in which the district court has gone up the ladder and is now a really important part of the judicial system”.

Strettell, 65, has had a long career at the district court, serving as a judge for 24 years and taking up various responsibilities.

He served the southern region for five years as the administrative family court judge.

For more than seven years, he was the executive judge – which involved administration for the district court judges for most of the South Island. He also served as chairman of the supervising committees of both the Salvation Army Bridge and Nova Lodge programmes.

Strettell has mentored and overseen the training of many judges.

He was selected by his peers to be part of the district court support panel – a group of judges who support other judges on a confidential basis.

He has presented papers to the Australian Family Law Conference, the Unesco Commonwealth judges’ conference and various family court judges’ conferences.

Following the introduction of the Relationship Property Act 2001, Judge Strettell also found time to lead Family Court judge seminars.

Of all his achievements, his biggest was “hopefully giving people that came in front of me a fair hearing”.

Although he is officially retired, Strettell is still doing some court work while living in Queenstown.