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Christchurch-bound: Local business personality Maryann Geddes

After a successful business career in Queenstown, specialising in HR, Maryann Geddes is shifting to Christchurch next month. She tells PHILIP CHANDLER what’s behind the move, recounts her climbing exploits and reveals a special local connection she’ll be retaining

For prominent former Skyline Enterprises manager Maryann Geddes, her Covid-related layoff last year was a blessing, she says.

The 62-year-old, who’d been with the Queenstown-based tourism company for 26 years, had no hard feelings.

‘‘It’s a business decision and I would have done exactly the same to me.’’

She’d already dropped to two days a week, as group risk and compliance manager, when nursing her husband Dave, who died five-and-a-half years ago.

Unencumbered by a job, she says she woke up one day last year and decided it was time to reinvent herself.

She was living in too big a house, which she’s now sold, and moves to Christchurch next month, where she’ll be close to family.

Since Skyline, she’s also taken on more directorships, including on the new body overseeing the country’s 16 polytechs.

Geddes has only has praise for her long-time employer.

‘‘Skyline’s just a total, successful company, everything they’ve touched has been really good.’’

After an initial stint as HR manager, she became operations manager, looking after business planning and strategy as well as HR.

She even stepped into running luge sites overseas when managers were on leave.

She also oversaw a huge growth in health and safety compliance.

‘‘The way companies have to operate now is totally different to 20 years ago,’’ she says.

As a byproduct of her roles, she served as director on a wide variety of organisations including the then-Tourism Industry Association, Otago Southland Employers’ Association and Hospitality Standards Institute.

She’s even represented New Zealand employers in Geneva, Switzerland.

At her late husband’s request, she applied successfully to join the Royal NZ Returned and Services Association — he’d helped reform Queenstown’s RSA branch, which till this month Geddes was also secretary of.

From her governance experience, she says a good workplace comes down to the quality of the board and senior management.

‘‘The leadership they provide is everything.’’

In business circles, Geddes notes she was often a lone woman, echoing her successful earlier career in the male-dominated world of mountaineering.

Growing up in the Mackenzie Country, she was skiing at two — her parents’ station included Roundhill skifield — and won a South Island junior title.

After banking work, she moved to Mt Cook where she had seven years as a mountaineer, involving search and rescue and maintenance work.

She climbed Mt Cook four times and was the first woman to summit its tricky Caroline Face.

While guiding in Alaska, she climbed North America’s highest mountain, Denali (formerly Mt McKinley).

‘‘Some people are really good at biking or swimming, I just happened to like climbing.’’

Her first husband was prominent Mt Cook adventure guide, Charlie Hobbs.

She says she first met her next husband when he was boss of NZ’s Antarctic programme.

Bizarrely, he interviewed her and Hobbs, then divorced from each other, for the same field-
training job on the ice.

‘‘We both got the job and Charlie was my boss, which was hilarious.’’

She subsequently spent two more summers in Antarctica running safety-training and search and rescue, while between times studying for a commerce degree.

After a job in Christchurch, she moved to Queenstown with her new hubby to work for Skyline in ‘94.

By then she’d given up mountaineering.

‘‘It’s risky, and if you’re doing it and your husband or wife’s not, it’s pretty selfish, too.’’

Told she’s amazing for what she’s packed in, Geddes begs to disagree.

‘‘It’s just I’ve had some really good opportunities, and I’ve taken them.’’

While she’ll miss Queenstown — ‘‘my house has an amazing view’’ — she recalls Dave always told her ‘‘life is about compromise’’.

And she’s retaining one special link with the resort.

After her husband’s death she inaugurated Queenstown RSA’s David Geddes Memorial Scholarship.

It’s awarded each year to a talented Wakatipu High School leaver.

‘‘It’s just to keep Dave’s name alive, and Wakatipu High’s an amazing school.’’

scoop@scene.co.nz