This year’s Westpac Queenstown Business Excellence Awards entries are of an extraordinarily high standard and the largest number of entries on record. The judges noticed the finalists’ entries are outstanding and the passion which people showed for their business is reflected in the high level of submissions. – Ann Lockhart, Queenstown Chamber of Commerce CEO

McCulloch and Partners SME Business of the Year Award

Light up Queenstown: An HQ New Zealand-organised event at the Kawarau Bungy Bridge
Light up Queenstown: An HQ New Zealand-organised event at the Kawarau Bungy Bridge

FEAST CREATIVE – Feast your eyes on this company’s creativity. Queenstown’s Feast Creative aims to “create the emotional connection through graphic storytelling”. Established in 2001, the company has 14 members on its team developing ads and campaigns for clients. They pride themselves on having “passion to connect the hearts of brands to the hearts of their consumers”. Recently it was a finalist in two categories in Design Institute of New Zealand’s Best Awards.

HQ NEW ZEALAND – Started in a Fernhill home office surrounded by permafrost, this has grown to become one of the biggest event and destination management companies in the country. HQ New Zealand now employs eight fulltime staffers and has between 15 and 20 part timers across Australia and New Zealand. Established in 2001, HQ puts its success down to its teams’ passion for the industry.

Roosting in the resort: Toby Stanley (left) and Mark Pullar of Roost Mortgage Brokers Queenstown
Roosting in the resort: Toby Stanley (left) and Mark Pullar of Roost Mortgage Brokers Queenstown

ROOST MORTGAGE BROKERS QUEENSTOWN – Roost Mortgage Brokers Queenstown help people take the next “big step” in their lives, whether that’s for first-home loans, investment properties, land or businesses. Since opening in a garage back in 2007, the team now consists of three advisers and four support staffers. Roost boss Mark Pullar says it’s been an “incredibly satisfying journey” and thanks the community for their support over the past nine years. Roost is a finalist in two categories.

TOMTOM PRODUCTIONS – TomTom Productions is a household name in Queenstown. Tom Lynch started the company from his grandad’s garage. Today it’s a high-end technical production company with 13 employees. Lynch reckons a “start from scratch approach” to projects has a lot to do with its continued success. TomTom operates out of Queenstown and Christchurch for all sorts of events, from festivals and conferences to nationwide theatre shows. Each year he and his company donate $100,000 worth of free equipment to non-profit groups.

Lane Neave Large Business of the Year Award 

No sound but the ocean: A Jucy Cruise in Milford Sound
No sound but the ocean: A Jucy Cruise in Milford Sound

JUCY – Jucy Cruise is in fifth gear. The tourism company’s catamaran Maiden of Milford has been successfully cruising the sound since 2013. In December, Jucy is introducing a new 200-passenger luxury boat tour, Gem of the Sound. By next month it’s also hoping to have a Chinese-dedicated tour, on a glass-roofed coach, from Queenstown. The resort is expected to have its very own Jucy Snooze pod hotel by late 2017. Jucy is a finalist in two categories.

SKYLINE QUEENSTOWN – Skyline Queenstown is at the top of the resort’s tourism game, literally. Perched on Bob’s Peak, the company is about to celebrate 50 years in business. Its gondola, which began operating in 1967, is getting a $100 million makeover in 2018. With 230 employees, Skyline boss Lyndon Thomas says the company takes a “customer-centric approach”, aiming to reinvest in products and people. “Skyline has a strong family culture, resulting in a united team focused on delivering great customer experiences.” Skyline is a finalist in four categories.

SHOTOVER CAMERA SYSTEMS – SHOTOVER Camera Systems is at the forefront of designing and manufacturing high-performance aerial camera systems for drones. SHOTOVER’S drones have been used on many Hollywood blockbusters, including Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated, yet-to-be-released film Alien: Covenant. Company boss Brad Hurndell: “The launch of the new SHOTOVER U1, a cinema-grade UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle], has cemented SHOTOVER as a company that innovates outside of the box,” he says.

MONS ROYALE – Mons Royale is stocked by 400 retail stores across the globe. The Wanaka company creates merino clothing for “technical performance and style”. From six staffers to today’s 28 – 23 in Wanaka and five in Switzerland – Mons boss Hamish Acland reckons it’s “rad” to see how the company has grown. “This scale has meant we can maintain our growth trajectory against increasing competition globally.”

Real Journeys Excellence in Tourism, Activities or Events Award

The fleet: some of Nomad Safaris’ vehicles

NOMAD SAFARIS – Nomad Safaris was once a single-vehicle, owner-operator gig. Nowadays there are 51 different vehicles from 4WD trucks to buggies and small buses. The company, one of New Zealand’s first 4WD tour operators, offers small personalised tours in Queenstown’s scenic backcountry. The team now has 45 staff members during their peak season. Company boss David Gatward-Ferguson says: “Managing the markets through knowledge, technology and good old-fashioned presence is how we keep at the fore of our segment.”

ZIPTREK ECOTOURS – Flying high above Queenstown, Ziptrek Ecotours is all about adventure – but not at the cost of the environment. The company started from the top of Skyline’s gondola in 2009 – the first zipline in the country. Initially only promoting its four-line Moa tour, a year later the Kea six-line tour, the steepest tree-to-tree zipline in the world, was added. Since 2011, Ziptrek has been recognised as a Qualmark Enviro-Gold business.

JUCY – See Large Business of the Year category

SKYLINE QUEENSTOWN – See Large Business of the Year category

SIT Excellence in Construction, Trade or Services Award

HOAMZ LTD – Locally owned and operated, Hoamz Ltd has been on the block since 2003. The real estate company has branched out over the past six years to Invercargill and, most recently, Balclutha. The team consists of 32 staffers, with agents who boast a “team approach” to sales. Hoamz boss Fred Bramwell says his team works on every single listing, meaning a huge proportion of sales are made by an agent other than the listing agent. The company also provides short- and long-term property management.

MAXRAFT – MAXRaft is heating up. With a 257 per cent growth rate, the company has been growing rapidly since it was founded in 2013. This year it was named the Fastest Growing Manufacturer for Dunedin and the lower South Island at the Deloitte regional awards. MAXRaft slabs go right to the edge of the foundation ensuring heat doesn’t escape out the side. Company boss Henry Edney says the company aims to “bridge the gap in cost between MAXRaft and conventional slab systems to ensure that everyone can have an energy-efficient home”. MAXRaft is a finalist in two categories.

NAYLOR LOVE CONSTRUCTION LTD – This company has helped shape Queenstown into what it is today. Naylor Love Construction has been in the area since 1985. Its 130 staff offer everything from design management to value engineering. Regional boss Justin Calder reckons his workers are the ones who make the magic happen. “It’s our staff who are at the core of our business success in this region.” He says the staff are responsible for exceptional time and budget management as well as quality.

PARTNERS IN GRIME – Owners Aaron and Bridget Murphy are fresh to Queenstown’s high-end cleaning scene, having established Partners in Grime, or PIG, in 2013.They consider their business as a “one-stop shop” for the upkeep of flash holiday houses, including maintenance, management and cleaning. With 14 staffers, nine cars and more than 100 customers, the PIG team even cleans the TSS Earnslaw and other commercial businesses.

Air NZ Excellence in Hospitality or Accommodation Award

HILTON QUEENSTOWN RESORT & SPA – Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa features 178 upscale guest rooms and 42 fully-equipped suites, as well as conference facilities and five restaurants and bars. They’re supported by the eforea: spa at Hilton facility, which boasts treatment rooms and a 25m indoor heated pool. Boss Chris Ehmann says: “We are delighted to be involved in Queenstown’s premier award programme. Being a finalist reflects the dedication and professionalism by all team members.”

HOTEL ST MORTIZ – The five-star 134-room boutique hotel has had much to celebrate in recent months. It has been repositioned in the MGallery by Sofitel collection, kicking off a $3 million investment to redecorate all rooms and suites. New boss Jo Finnigan says the developments will help deliver on its vision to be recognised as a leading boutique hotel in New Zealand. The awards nod recognises the hotel property’s extraordinary people, unbeatable setting and innovative culture – as well as the strength of the Lombardi restaurant.

MILLBROOK RESORT – Established in 1993, Millbrook is a five-star golf and lifestyle resort near Arrowtown. Operations director Brian Howie says its people are a key contributor to its success. “This is reflected in regular comments from our guests who identify our employees’ genuine commitment to detail and making their experience memorable as reasons for their return.” The resort offers luxury accommodation, an award-winning day spa, four restaurants, a 27-hole championship golf course, a health and fitness centre, various conference venues and real estate.

SKYLINE QUEENSTOWN – See Large Business of the Year category

Heartland Technology Excellence in Professional Services Award

COLLIERS INTERNATIONAL OTAGO – As the largest multi-service real estate business in Otago and Southland, Colliers needs a big team. In its founding year, 2006, it had 10 staff members. That’s now rocketed to 29. Over its decade in the resort, revenue has grown an almighty 420 per cent. Colliers boss Alastair Wood puts the company’s success down to the staff and teamwork. “First and foremost it’s about our people and culture – that’s what makes us stand out.”

Team bonding: staffers from Colliers
Team bonding: staffers from Colliers

WHEREWOLF – Wherewolf, the arrival app, was set up to make the most out of the booming tourism industry. The company provides businesses with their own branded app and aims to “capture customer info” by gaining knowledge from customers. Since the launch in 2013, by Ben Calder and Wulf Solter, it’s gone global. With hundreds of clients from more than 20 countries it’s safe to say the idea is taking off.

NEW ZEALAND SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY – Realty company Sotheby’s won the title of ‘fastest growing services business’ in the lower South Island in the Deloitte Fast 50 regional business awards last month. Started by Queenstowners Mark Harris and Julian Brown in 2005, with just the two of them. Now there are 47 licensees in the Southern Lakes region and 104 licensees throughout the country. Harris says: “Most businesses begin life in the cities and expand to areas like Queenstown, but we’ve done it in reverse, which we’re proud of.”

ROOST MORTGAGE BROKERS – See SME Business of the Year category

Queenstown Resort College Employer of the Year Award

CARDRONA ALPINE RESORT LIMITED – Cardrona is still a hot destination when the sun is shining but the snow has melted. The ski resort, founded in 1980, has introduced mountain biking, carting and walking tracks on the mountain during the summer months. Cardrona recently announced a $10 million development to replace the current McDougall’s quad chairlift with a combined express lift of gondola cabins and six-seater chairs. With 50 permanent staff, an extra 100 during the summer and 600 more during winter, it’s a busy place.

HEARTLAND TECHNOLOGY – Heartland Technology is Queenstown’s largest supplier of printers, multifunctional photocopiers and software solutions. However, it’s spread across the South Island, with five branches from Ashburton to Queenstown. Local Heartland boss Laurie Martin says he aims to provide a personalised service. “We know our clients by name, not by serial number.” Back in 2006, when the company first started, it was servicing 34 machines in the area. Jump forward to 2016 and it’s up to more than 1700 in Central Otago.

SHOTOVER CANYON SWING & CANYON FOX – Shotover Canyon Swing got creative earlier this year. The team built a 182m-high Canyon Fox. It’s much like a zipline but uses a special gravity launch rail, pinging the “foxer” into freefall and then across the canyon. The company has had adrenalin on tap since 2002, when Canyon Swing started. With a team of 33, it focuses its energy on giving customers “fun and personalised” experiences. Canyon Swing and Canyon Fox boss Matt Hollyer says “we try do things a bit differently and our customers love it”.

SKYLINE QUEENSTOWN – See Large Business of the Year category

Destination Queenstown Best Emerging Bussiness Award

LANDMARK HOMES CENTRAL – Building company Landmark Homes Central is on a winning streak. The Queenstown- and Wanaka-based company has picked up nine awards at the Master Builders House of The Year comps from 2014 to 2016, including one gold. There’s seven in the team – Landmark boss Darryn Wilkie calls it a “tight-knit, productive, professional and driven” bunch. The company is currently working on 11 more homes. It’s creating new designs including a “Central Otago-specific design” and small site designs.

NEAT MEAT – Neat Meat is a family gig. The North Island-based Eriksen brothers got into business in 2001 after recognising a gap in the market for New Zealand-branded meat. Neat Meat traded up north until it came to Queenstown last year. The company supplies premium meat to Queenstown’s restaurants, hotels, catering companies, tourism businesses, airlines and the public via their butchery at Remarkables Park. After finding its feet, it has become “entrenched in the local community” this year. The team consists of 14 staff members in Queenstown.

New to town: Abi Lane from Neat Meats
New to town: Abi Lane from Neat Meats

THRILLZONE – Rainy days in Queenstown inspired this business. Thrillzone, established in 2014, started out with a 12-D motion theatre designed to fill a gap in the market. Sonja and Francis Painter created the indoor activity to attract all walks of life to an “exciting, unique, fun indoor place not seen in the South Island”. Their two kids complained about how little there is to do when the weather turns wet. Now the couple run a Kidzclub, paintless paintball, Lasertag and other thrilling indoor activities to keep everyone – including anklebiters – happy.

MAXRAFT – See Construction, Trade or Services category