You may have noticed a new addition to the paper last week, dubbed ‘This week in our week in history – looking back on 40 years of Mountain Scene’.
That’s right – Mountain Scene is in its 40th year, the first edition having rolled off the presses on November 1, 1972.
The new weekly column is intended to offer an interesting look back at news items from past editions and hopefully show how things have evolved in the resort over a relatively short space of time.
Mountain Scene’s been an integral part of that evolution, covering the place’s growth and growing pains, for good or ill.
No doubt some of you will feel the paper’s done a better or worse job than others.
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English seems to be a fan.
A few years back the Clutha-Southland MP made an impromptu visit to the office for a catch-up.
English’s electorate had just been changed to include the Wakatipu.
He wanted to chew the fat on Queenstown, and opened with unashamed praise of Mountain Scene, asking:
“Why is this newspaper so damn good each week?”
I replied: “Well, Bill – aside from the fact there’s lots going on in Queenstown to cover, a good part of the reason is we have two guys on the editorial staff who’ve been here more than 25 years each and have a fair handle on the place.
“Plus we’ve got a bunch of young cats on staff too, so it’s a pretty balanced team.”
The two old hands, of course, being Mountain Scene’s indefatigable chief news hound Philip ‘Scoop’ Chandler and former co-owner-turned-senior writer Frank Marvin.
I’m sure part of Bill’s flattery was no doubt aimed at stroking the ego but Mountain Scene’s record over the years does speak for itself.
It’s featured pretty regularly in the top three at the national media awards, picking up the gong for best community newspaper in both 2006 and last year.
Mountain Scene, self-styled as the free voice of the Wakatipu, has got stuck into plenty of thorny issues down the years exposing serious problems with white water rafting operations in the 1990s and revealing timeshare tout scams also in the 1990s.
It’s championed plenty of worthy causes too – launching recent campaigns to push for better care for local elderly and health services in general plus the memorable Save our Cottages editions – that one came full circle late last year when the formerly deteriorating historic dwellings in Arrowtown were relaunched after painstaking restoration.
More recently, articles by Scoop exposing unnecessarily long trips to Invercargill for life-saving cancer treatment – when the same treatment was on offer close by at Clyde – resulted in Southern District Health Board making welcome changes.
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing and not everyone shares English’s view.
In 1990 a long-time local upset about a story strolled into Mountain Scene and emptied a bag of sheep manure onto the publisher’s desk, smiled and left without a word. Then there was the dead rat that came in the post – just guessing here but it probably wasn’t intended as fan mail.
Former mayor Warren Cooper once imposed a media blackout on Mountain Scene refusing to be interviewed for 88 weeks until he stepped down. Another former mayor Clive Geddes once branded it “the single most destructive force in the community” – though he later claimed he was somewhat misquoted but thought it was so funny he didn’t bother to correct it.
But back to the 40th – no doubt we’ll look at celebrating that one when the time comes.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane of Queenstown’s history as recorded in these
pages – the good, the bad and the ugly.