Colourful Irish business consultant Johnny Quinn has already made quite a contribution to Queenstown in his few short years living
here. He tells PHILIP CHANDLER why he shifted here from Dubai and why he calls himself a ‘presentologist’
Johnny Quinn reluctantly achieved his ‘five minutes of fame’ when, on behalf of Dalefield neighbours, he protested an American billionaire’s plans for a fireworks display this past New Year’s Eve.
Their concerns proved justified when firefighters were called out after the display got out of the control.
Quinn, who drove his horses to Garston to stop them possibly bolting, has since been lobbying to prevent similar displays ‘‘in a rural environment in the hottest time of the year’’.
Going by his track record, you wouldn’t bet against him succeeding.
Raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during ‘the Troubles’, the 54-year-old business consultant’s enjoyed a colourful life.
He got an early taste for mountains when climbing them to help his dad, who worked 50 years for the BBC, put up transmitters.
He studied electronic engineering at Slough College, near London, though was also active as president of the student union.
He became engineering director for a company, but by ’96 wanted to leave the UK — ‘‘I could see it was going to get too busy’’.
He and his still-partner, Jacquie, spent a year travelling around Africa, ‘‘but kept coming back and forward through Dubai, and thought Dubai was going to be a bit of fun’’.
That’s where they then spent their next 20 years.
Quinn originally worked for electronics giant, Philips, during when he ran the tech side for their conferences.
‘‘I realised it was the worst part of business, when [executives] stand up in front of people, they’re really kind of amateurish.’’
By 2002, he’d started AudienceAlive to help improve companies’ presentational skills and make better use of PowerPoint.
He calls himself a ‘presentologist’, after a telco CEO called him that — ‘‘everybody’s got an ‘ology’, haven’t they?’’
Backtracking to ’99, he and Jacquie, after a year in Zurich, Switzerland, discovered Queenstown during their travels, and, despite having already visited 30 to 40 countries, felt at home immediately.
‘‘I remember seeing the Skyline gondola and thinking it was a ski-in, ski-out town — I remember the disappointment that you couldn’t ski all the way into town.
‘‘I was up a mountain on a motorbike and came back and Jacquie had bought an apartment [in Lake Street].’’
This became their holiday home till, in 2006, they upgraded by buying a four-hectare Dalefield pad.
For the next 10 years they regularly travelled from Dubai, when it was about 50 degrees, for a winter in Queenstown, when it could be minus 10 — ‘‘if I wanted to title this, it would be ‘from the oven to the freezer’.
‘‘You’d go from sandboarding to snowboarding.’’
By 2015, he and his family — including a daughter who’s now 16, and a son, who’s 13 — had decided to shift permanently to Queenstown.
‘‘We wanted the kids to grow up in a kind of more natural environment.’’
Quinn — who’s getting New Zealand citizenship in June — says he was accepted into NZ on an investor visa.
To fulfil the criteria, he built three homes at Shotover Country, two of which he’s since sold.
He continues to run his own business by himself, having once employed up to 10 staff in Dubai.
He’s more selective on which clients he takes on, though some are still based overseas.
One arm of AudienceAlive also involves providing electronic voting capacity for company AGMs and the like.
Quinn’s also got very involved with the community, including public speaking organisation Toastmasters, which he’s been president of, Arrowtown Scouts, which his daughter belonged to, and latterly as Coastguard’s vice-president.
With Toastmasters and Coastguard he’s also been keen on increasing female participation.
And through the interactive technology his company uses, he’d like to develop a quiz for kids to improve water safety.
He’s also keen to work on ‘‘big-picture plans’’ as to how Queenstown could cope with a serious disaster like a plane coming down in the lake.
Each summer, the 54-year-old also hosts a ‘party by the pond’ for about 100 of his friends.
‘‘There’s no real reason to it — it’s normally a good party, and a bit of line dancing.’’