The man masterminding Queenstown’s Gibbston Valley Resort has vast experience in masterplanning. Greg Hunt traverses his track gallops with Philip Chandler and explains how he’s ended up working on some major development projects over the past 30 years
Greg Hunt loves nothing better than coming up with a development concept for a piece of land — even marking it out himself — then bringing it to fruition.
After finding his feet in the United States, he’s spent 30 years in the South Island doing just that — with Arrowtown’s Millbrook Resort, Wānaka subdivisions and Pegasus township, near Christchurch, and now with Queenstown’s ongoing Gibbston Valley Resort.
Through this last project he’s also got into two fields — wine and entertainment — that had been foreign to him.
A banker’s son, Hunt went to eight schools, mostly in Christchurch, before finishing high school.
‘‘Everybody seemed to be doing law and finance, so I did law and finance — I lasted a year, failed everything.’’
He then took up a three-month work permit in the US.
‘‘I ended up coming back, much to my mother’s chagrin, I think, 16 years later.’’
In that time he got into landscape architecture and planning, gaining a degree in ’85, and was involved in ‘‘a range of landscape products that obviously you couldn’t do in New Zealand’’.
His last project was redeveloping the Las Vegas Strip for hotel mogul Steve Wynn after working on three of his casino resorts.
Returning to NZ in ’93, he was offered a job as development GM for the then-new Millbrook.
‘‘Somehow I convinced them I knew how to run a construction company — I’d never done it in my life.’’
With a crew of about 40, he oversaw the building of most of the resort’s villas, early housing and central facilities, though his primary role was concept masterplanning.
He also oversaw the construction and fitout of Queenstown’s Steamer Wharf casino, one of whose owners was US entrepreneur Phil Griffith.
In ’99, he was introduced to then-Singapore-based Kiwi entrepreneur, the late Bob Robertson.
‘‘He said, ‘I’m interested in coming back to NZ, I know nothing about development, would you be interested in forming a development company with me?’’’
Through Wānaka-based Infinity Investment Group Holdings, Hunt’s role was organising land purchases and developing a number of subdivisions there, including Peninsula Bay, as well Pegasus and neighbouring Mapleham in North Canterbury.
Then, in 2005, Griffith, who also had an involvement in Gibbston Valley Winery, approached him to say he’d been offered about 400 hectares around the winery.
‘‘He said, same thing [as Robertson], ‘I don’t really know much about development, you’re down here, I’ll do it if you do it with me’.
‘‘And I got ownership with it, which was a huge plus.’’
Hunt then spent about three years planning a resort either side of the Gibbston highway.
‘‘When I presented the Gibbston Valley Station development, I had about 100 people in the [winery] restaurant, and there was me in support and 100 opposed to it.’’
Hunt says he spent two years turning the community around.
What helped was committing to a cycle trail, promising a vintners’ village, and committing to only develop land that wasn’t suitable for vines.
Having got council approval, however, they then parked the project due to the GFC.
Griffith then made Hunt CEO of his winery business and tasked him with turning it around, which he’s done.
Meanwhile, about 2010, Hunt was approached by promoter Dean Calvert about hosting music concerts.
The winery took shares in Calvert’s Greenstone Entertainment, the concerts spread to Taupō and Whitianga, and entertainment giant Live Nation’s also come onboard.
In recent years, the resort development’s got underway with a lodge and spa, which opened just before Covid before going into hibernation.
A hiccup came last year when spiralling costs caused the first housing stage to go on hold, with buyers’ deposits being returned.
Development work, including a nine-hole golf course, has continued, though it’s still tough going, Hunt says.
“Like any business will tell you, get through this year, and we’re hoping labour [shortages] and all of those things will start improving next year.
‘‘I’ll see this one through, I enjoy what I do.
“In my ideal world, I would say 2029/’30 would see this fairly well done, but that’s not knowing what the hell’s going to happen in the world.’’