Prominent Queenstown developer Kevin Carlin’s capabilities were ‘‘beyond normal scope’’, one of his closest friends says.

Carlin, originally from California, died aged 69 late last week.

Australian Stephen Murray, a retired civil engineer and shareholder in Carlin’s property management company, tells Mountain Scene he believes the father of four died of a sudden heart attack in his sleep.

Carlin’s interests in the resort included developing the The Waterfront Apartments and Lakeside Estate, now known as Oraka, in the 1990s.

Most recently he opened Hallenstein St’s ‘beyond five-star’ The Carlin Hotel, which he dubbed his ‘‘retirement project’’.

In March, he listed the seven-storey 14-suite hotel building for sale with an asking price of $35 million.

Murray, who says shareholders have full confidence in the ongoing hotel management, says selling the property once it was up-and-running was always part of Carlin’s plan.

‘‘He was going to sell it because he wanted to move on to another project and he was retaining the management rights of the hotel as his retirement fund.’’

Of The Carlin, Murray says what his friend achieved was remarkable.

‘‘No one could build a hotel in Queenstown as quickly as he did and the quality of the hotel that’s been built is just unbelievable — what went through that guy’s mind and the fact he went and purchased a lot of things that he knew would be in short supply because of the Covid situation.’’

When Covid hit, everyone was forced to stop working, but Carlin — who also project-managed the build — got permission from Queenstown’s council to resume, due to the risks of slips on the sloping site, which required retaining walls.

‘‘Once he got that, he just kept going.

‘‘There isn’t really anybody else that I know that would be capable of building that thing as quickly and as well as he did.

‘‘His capabilities are beyond normal scope, really.’’

Painfully shy, Carlin grew up in a physically abusive family which he left when he was 17, spending two years living in a tent before upgrading to a caravan.

A government grant put him through chef school and he managed to save $13,000 — at 23 he succeeded in convincing several doctors to invest and build the 200-seat Kenwood Depot restaurant.

After picking up work as a chef for musos like Van Halen, Sting and The Police and Ozzy Osbourne, he later sold his shares in the Kenwood to establish Carlin Catering, with which he spent seven years touring with artists and celebrities.

He then launched Carlin Manufacturing, a company which builds mobile kitchens.

He sold that company 10 yearslater and retired to Queenstown.

Here, Carlin, who often said he had ‘‘a passion for perfection’’, was also involved in a high-end hotel, being developed on the corner of Brecon and Man Sts — he sold the development site to Augusta Capital in 2019 for $13.95m, but was retained as a development consultant.

In June, 2020, Carlin, at the time based on the Gold Coast, announced he was also launching a private jet service from Australia’s East Coast to Queenstown once the travel ban was lifted, believing there’d be enough demand for at least weekly flights on the chartered
Dassault Falcon 900, with capacity for 13.

An incredibly-talented muso — Carlin was a concert pianist, often seen tinkling the ivories at The Carlin’s Oro Restaurant, and also played guitar, drums, Irish whistles and saxophone — he composed 14 orchestral pieces in 2003 for The Princess of Wales album, performed by the
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, which reached number 23 on the NZ music charts.

Murray: ‘‘He was extraordinary, really.

‘‘He wouldn’t slow down … he just kept working so hard — I don’t know how he did it; you couldn’t believe he was getting older.’’

It’s understood Carlin didn’t request a funeral.


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