First project: Geoff Cotton's first job in Queenstown, 26 years ago, was client project manager for Millennium Hotel


Over three stints in Queenstown, project manager Geoff Cotton’s been involved in some of the resort’s biggest builds.

After working for CDL Hotels in London, he came to Queenstown in ‘94 as client project manager for the Millennium Hotel build.

Despite enduring the coldest winter in 25 years, Cotton says it was a great project that was completed in just 12 months.

He then crossed the road to expand the Copthorne hotel for the same client.

He recalls rescuing Copthorne cherry trees that were headed to the landfill and moving them across the road to grace the Millennium frontage.

Cotton left town in ‘97 but returned for the next hotel boom in ‘03, working as construction project manager for the five-star Sofitel hotel.

The builder was Amalgamated Builders, which had co-built the Millennium.

After the Sofitel he became a consultant project manager with Shane Muir — their business name, Insignis, is Latin for ‘remarkable’.

Their projects included Ngai Tahu Property’s CBD complex, The Rees Hotel and some of
the Hilton.

Cotton left Queenstown again in 2009, initially heading to Dubai, then returned two years ago.

He’d been going to project-manage a Marriott hotel, by the Hilton, but that didn’t proceed.

However, he got involved with the Holiday Inn hotel, at Remarkables Park, which opens next September, is engineer to contract for the O’Connells shopping mall redevelopment
and, in one of his biggest ever jobs, is project director for the Invercargill Central redevelopment.

That’s a $170 million project which began with the demolition of 43 buildings, and is now under construction — ironically, Amalgamated’s the builder — with completion due late 2022.

Cotton’s spending two to three days a week in Invercargill, and last Monday showed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern around the site.

Cotton, 58, calls himself ‘‘an old-school project manager’’.

‘‘You can’t build a building on your own, you need to all work together to make it work.

‘‘My signature stamp is I spend a lot of time trying to make sure everybody’s a team
— consultants, builders, subcontractors, owners.’’

On Queenstown’s building challenges, he says when he first got here in ‘94, he was asked on TV, ‘where are you going to get the workers from, and where are they going to stay?’

‘‘And when I came back in 2018, the same question was asked.’’

If there’s one big difference from those days, it’s the slowing down of the build process, he

Millennium today would take two years to build, not one, and cost 50% more, he suggests.

‘‘There’s less appetite for risk amongst the contractors and even consultants, which means longer programmes, and I think buildings are more complex now to build and get approved.

‘‘My personal view is it shouldn’t take this long to build buildings.’’

A quirk of Cotton’s is with almost every building he works on he buries a time capsule to
be opened when it’s eventually demolished.

‘‘In New Zealand we always put in a bottle of Speight’s.’’