Penny drops into race


Queenstown’s most experienced hotelier, Penny Clark, has sprung two surprises - she’s resigning her job and standing for council.

The Goldridge Resort general manager - whose hotel is turning into a refurbed Holiday Inn under a new owner and new management company - pulled the plug on her award-winning career of 35-plus years at 5.30pm last Thursday.

An hour earlier, she lodged her nomination as one of 14 council candidates for the six-member Queenstown/Wakatipu ward.

Clark says her resignation was partly sparked by changes at Goldridge.

When managing it for a finance company for seven years it had been her baby, she says: “It’s not my baby any more.”

Stepping down early next month, however, allows her to give her council bid “my best shot”.

The fact that local businessman Jim Boult is standing for mayor is a catalyst: “I do believe we need someone that’s got some good business acumen and some understanding of managing and governing, at a governance level.”

However, she also has strong views on local issues: “You can’t sit on the sideline and peck away at it, so I’m thinking, ‘OK, if I look at where my life is, at the moment, why don’t I give it a go?'”

In April, Mountain Scene publicised her suggestion that container units be deployed on the council’s Lakeview site, in central Queenstown, to help solve the worker housing crisis.

Clark says she’s also concerned about issues like traffic congestion and the lack of services at Lakes District Hospital: “The amount of rubber that ambulances put on the road between us and Invercargill is bloody mind-boggling.

“We are on a cycle of tourism overdrive here and we need to manage it.

“You can’t really control it, but we don’t appear to have a plan.”

Till early this year, Clark – who first ran a Queenstown hotel in the early 1990s - was spokesperson for the resort’s hoteliers, as chair of Tourism Industry Aotearoa’s local hotel sector.

She was awarded the Hotel Industry Achievement Award at the New Zealand Hotel Industry Awards in June.

The local Chamber of Commerce is hosting a pre-election debate at the Queenstown Memorial Centre on September 13, chaired by broadcaster Sean Plunket. The ‘Meet the Wakatipu candidates’ session kicks off at 5.30pm, followed by the mayoral debate at 7pm.