Queenstown’s gay fest back in the pink

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Queenstown businesses have stepped in to support out-of-pocket visitors in town for the resort’s rescued Gay Ski Week. 

About 150 domestic and international revellers had paid thousands of dollars for pre-booked event tickets and accommodation to organiser of the week-long party, Mike Sanford. 

Last week Sanford put his Livewire Group into volun-tary liquidation, after failing to raise $25,000 to meet pre-payment commitments. 

Local Sally Whitewoods, who has stepped in to save Gay Ski Week, claims some visitors have turned up to pre-paid accommodation at Novotel which had no record of booking and payments. 

“Nothing had been paid for [by Sanford],” she says. 

In response, Sanford says: “That is partly correct, partly bullshite.” 

Sanford didn’t pay for about two-thirds of the bookings he made for Gay Ski Week guests at Novotel, he admits. 

Creditors should get in touch with the liquidator, he adds, blaming the Chilean volcanic ash cloud, date clashes with the “bogan” Rugby World Cup and “harsh sponsorship market” for his cashflow headache. 

“If I had the bridging funding by the end of [last] week, sales from the closing weekend parties and some smaller amounts from local sponsors would have left me in the red but everyone else would have been 
happy.” 

Whitewoods, marketing manager at Aspen Lodge Backpackers, contacted as many people as possible last week to save the event and help out those with pre-bookings: “Some people have cancelled their trip altogether because they couldn’t afford to pay again, but some have just had to pay double. It’s awful.” 

Hotels have offered cheap rates or free rooms, businesses have given free tickets for adventure activities and others handed out discount vouchers, Whitewoods says. 

Novotel general manager Jim Moore confirms several guests were affected. 

“We tried to give anyone who’d lost any money from dealing with Mike some discounted rates to make it a little bit easier,” Moore says. 

Whitewoods says community support has been phenomenal. 

“I’m sure there are some people who’ve been left with a sour taste in their mouths about losing money … but it’s not something we [as new organisers] have control over.”