By PHILIP CHANDLER
A long-established builder behind many of Queenstown’s biggest projects is grateful it’s so far ridden out the Covid storm.
Naylor Love last year finished the Holiday Inn Express hotel and, just before Christmas, Toru Apartments.
This year it’s completing the O’Connells reconstruction, and Remarkables Park’s Holiday Inn and Five Mile’s Sudima hotels.
The company, which has operated in Queenstown since the mid-‘80s, had just started the O’Connells and Sudima projects when last year’s lockdown occurred.
‘‘Anything could have happened,’’ local commercial manager Robin Bashford admits.
Queenstown director Greg Boland says they rang round clients at the time ‘‘to reassure them that, ‘look, we can work our way through this’.
‘‘Despite all the Covid issues and concerns about tenancy levels and stuff, they pushed ahead.
‘‘We’re lucky we’re involved with clients that have actually followed through on what their vision was, even though there was uncertainty with the current environment.
‘‘I guess they are going to potentially benefit from their projects being finished when the world economy’s going to pick up and go again.’’
He’s delighted they’ve been able to retain all their 110 full-time local staff — comprising, incidentally, 56 Kiwis and 54 foreigners.
‘‘I guess a lot of the employment we create is probably higher-wage earners who will have homes and families, and we’ve been lucky enough we’ve managed to keep everyone on board.’’
He says his team includes specialist back-of-house staff like structural engineers which helps them deliver more than one project at a time.
But it’s still ‘‘bloody hard’’, Boland admits.
‘‘You have to make [projects] stack up financially, and then you actually have to go and deliver — the margins aren’t huge and the clients are under pressure with delivery dates.’’
He’s particularly proud of how Holiday Inn Express was delivered.
‘‘It’s quite a large-footprint building, we had 20 months to go and build it and in the middle of it we got hit by Covid, but we somehow managed to deliver it on time.
‘‘We think it looks pretty good.’’
Bashford says the facade angles made it particularly challenging.
‘‘Normally you try and build stuff that’s square and plumb — this was the least square and
the least plumb building since the bungy visitor centre [which Amalgamated Builders built].
‘‘Every single piece of it was bespoke.’’
Lessons learned, he says, are helping with the O’Connells facade — interestingly, local architect Preston Stevens designed both buildings.
Despite the challenges of running projects simultaneously, Boland says it’s given many staff more responsibility.
‘‘Having the big projects has made it easier to retain and keep people interested.’’
However, Boland concedes the future once these projects have finished is less certain.
‘‘We’re all seeing a few shops close in town, and retail spaces are probably going to be a bit
cheaper [to rent].
‘‘So how would you make [a new building] stack up if building costs are going up and rents
are going down?’’
He says they’re likely to look for opportunities further afield.
‘‘We’re going to be looking outside the box a little bit.’’