Speaking of mayor Jim Boult, his wife Karen says: ‘‘People know who Jim is, most of them
don’t know who I am, really.’’ In an attempt to correct that imbalance, PHILIP CHANDLER talks to mayoress Karen Boult about her life and times, particularly since moving to Queenstown 39 years ago
People can say what they like about Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult, but one of his
trump cards is undeniably his wife, Karen.
Over the past week, mayoress Karen Boult’s been by his side, and adding her bit, to major
ceremonies like the opening-the-bubble airport function, Anzac Day services and Arrowtown Autumn Festival, including judging the parade floats.
Go back last year, when lockdown started, and she and daughter Victoria worked flat-out
on the council’s helpline fielding calls from migrant workers.
Speaking to Queenstown’s most vulnerable residents, who didn’t know the sympathetic voice on the line was the mayoress’, became the highlight of her days.
Go back three years, and Karen — from her experiences as mum of a gay son, James — was patron of the Pride Pledge campaign, encouraging local businesses to sign up their support for inclusive workplaces.
Of course, anyone knowing Karen before Jim became mayor four-and-a-half years ago knew she’d shine in the role.
Born and raised in Invercargill — ‘‘I had a great home life’’ — she used to kid her late father he’d set her up to meet Jim.
She says her dad, who used to deal with Jim when he was running Marac Finance, rang him one day to say, ahead of a lunch date, ‘‘I’ve made a terrible mistake, I’m supposed to be having lunch with my daughter, do you mind if she comes along?’’
After hitting it off, the pair married in Queenstown in ’82 — Karen was then 22.
They were then living in Rotorua but a few months later they shifted here — ‘‘my parents
always had a holiday house here’’.
‘‘We arrived with a stationwagon and a trailer filled to the top with all our worldly possessions.’’
They bought a women’s fashion store, Cherri Modes (renaming it Cherri M), at the top of The Mall and initially lived in a flat above, which Jim later used as an office.
Karen recalls shouting him a trip to a Bob Jones seminar for his birthday.
‘‘He came back and said, ‘we’re going to buy The Trading Post [in The Mall]’ and I said, ‘what with?’
‘‘I think we put the deposit on his credit card.’’
From humble beginnings managing Mountain Scene, Jim embarked on a high-flying business career that included owning hotels and, in ’86, buying, alongside Karen, tourism icon Shotover Jet.
Karen started Shotover’s retail and photography division— ‘‘we had a captive audience but we weren’t clipping the ticket’’.
In the pre-digital days, they had to move fast to develop customers’ pre-trip photos before
As the business attempted to go global, Karen says she learnt ‘‘setting up a retail and photography division in Mexico was very different’’.
Considering Karen’s of Ngai Tahu descent, it’s somehow fitting the iwi bought Shotover.
‘‘When we signed it over, I remember one of the kaumatua saying, ‘Karen, never see this as a sad day, because you may have sold but you’ve sold it to family’.’’
Karen played an active role when the couple bought the Cobb & Co restaurant franchise
group, relaunching it with a major TV advertising campaign.
At one stage the couple also owned a publishing business.
Separately, Karen’s owned New Zealand’s leading liquor trade mag, Drinksbiz, for about
She also added winejobsonline, initially thinking it was out of her comfort zone till James swayed her mind.
When it comes to supporting Jim, she admits she’s always been nervous about him motor racing.
‘‘I think the odd time I used to say, ‘just remember you’re leaving your wife and children at
home’, but it’s a passion for him, and when you work like he does, you have to have an outlet.’’
Karen admits she was also ‘‘very hesitant’’ about him running for the mayoralty after he was approached to stand.
‘‘We all were, because we’re quite private people, and I was just aware you have to have a reasonably thick skin.
‘‘Jim’s a huge charity person, and this was sort of our way of giving back to a town that has
been very kind to us.’’
That charity work includes a major involvement with the Child Cancer Foundation, while
Karen’s looked after, and relocated, its local holiday home.
As for her mayoress role, Karen admits ‘‘there’ll always be the knockers, but then you get
home and there’s a bottle of Scotch on your front door, and a bottle of wine’’.
‘‘I am very proud of my husband — there’s never been a boring day married to Jim.
‘‘We are a team, I think Jim always says I’m his biggest critic and his best friend.’’