In the Bible, the Israelites were condemned to 40 years in the wilderness. By contrast, lawyer Warwick Goldsmith has made his 40 years in Queenstown count. On the eve of his departure for Auckland, he reflects on his contribution with Philip Chandler, and discusses his reasons for leaving

One of Queenstown’s most-prominent lawyers leaves for Auckland next month after 40 years practising in town.

As a planning lawyer, Warwick Goldsmith played a major role in getting approval for many local subdivisions developed since the ’90s.

And as a long-ago councillor, he pushed for opening up Horne Creek to create the CBD’s Village Green after the previous council, under mayor Sir John Davies, bought a former carpark.

Like a lot of locals, Goldsmith never meant to stay here for any length of time.

A former Aucklander, he only came here in ’82 to visit an old university mate, architect Lindsay Mackie.

He’d studied law after an Auckland Grammar careers advisor, told he was studying Latin, French, English, German and history, asked him if he wanted to be a teacher.

‘‘I said ‘no’, he said, ‘well, you better be a lawyer, then’.’’

For his first five years after qualifying, Goldsmith says he didn’t practise law, and when he arrived in Queenstown he’d just had three-and-a-half years’ OE.

‘‘I had hair down to my shoulders, but I thought I better get a bit of practice doing legal interviews to get a job.’’

After his first interview he ‘‘unexpectedly’’ got a job at Anderson Lloyd, joining its sole lawyer, Walter Rutherford — ‘‘I later found out they’d been advertising for three months and no one had answered their ad’’.

‘‘Walter did commercial and farming and I did everything else — criminal, matrimonial, civil, transport and liquor licensing.’’

He’d only intended staying two or three years before returning to Auckland ‘‘to get a real job’’.

But by ’86 he was a partner and had started specialising in planning — ‘‘I liked the work, it was fun, you achieved things’’.

Goldsmith also started getting heavily involved in community affairs, chairing a social services organisation, an arts centre trust ‘‘which didn’t achieve much’’ and the Queenstown Pool 2000 Trust, ‘‘which built up a head of steam for the [Events Centre] aquatic centre’’.

He’d argued the pool should be in the Gardens, ‘‘but the most important thing was it got built’’.

In ’89, he stood for the council and served two terms under mayor David Bradford.

As mentioned, one of his first initiatives was persuading council to open up Horne Creek.

After getting knocked back the first time, he eventually won over councillors and had them approve an award-winning Village Green design by local landscape architect Paddy Baxter.

‘‘I walk past it every day and think, ‘it’s my Green’, I’m very proud of that.’’

He chaired the planning committee but was also getting busier in law due to the new Resource Management Act.

By ’92 he’d also married heritage architect/campaigner Jackie Gillies and bought a derelict farmhouse by Lake Johnson, which Gillies designed a home around, and they went on to have two children.

By the ’95 election, ‘‘out of family, work and council, one of them had to go’’.

As a lawyer he was successful in getting consents approved for subdivisions including Lakeside Estates, Lake Hayes Estate, Shotover Country, Jack’s Point, Bridesdale Farm and Wānaka’s Northlake, and Queenstown’s Millennium and Heritage hotels and Kawarau Falls Station (KFS) including the two Hilton hotels.

In 2006, he left to become lawyer for KFS’s Melview Developments, but that went belly-up and by 2010 he was back with Anderson Lloyd as a consultant.

A few years ago he then went out on his own as a barrister.

Now 69, he’s leaving for Auckland where he went to school and university, and has some good mates, while for Jackie, ‘‘there’s not much heritage left in Queenstown — she’s now knee-deep in Devonport heritage battles’’.

He’ll also be closer to his two children — a medical doctor and a psychologist.

‘‘I’ve still got a couple of major clients and I still enjoy the work — that will continue until I’ve had enough.’’

He’ll remain a Queenstown Trails Trust trustee and shareholder of a Coronet Peak ski hut, but otherwise is looking forward to forging a new life in Auckland ‘‘with optimism’’.

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