Queenstown tourism's pioneering entrepreneurs and attractions, such as Coronet Peak, pictured on its opening day in 1947, are spotlighted in the Queenstown Ambassador programme. Photo supplied.
The Queenstown Times was invited to join in the
Queenstown Ambassador programme at Queenstown Resort College
to see how the initiative links business operators with the
community and visitor expectations.
Even those who think they know everything about the Wakatipu
will come away with new knowledge and insights after
completing the Queenstown Ambassador programme.
Launched on June 13, the programme from Queenstown Resort
College has been taken up by many in the hospitality and
tourism industries, from newcomers who arrived two weeks ago,
to those who have lived and worked all their lives in the
Learning and development manager Fiona Boyer facilitated the
one-off, three-hour Friday morning course the Queenstown
Times attended, alongside staff from the college,
Destination Queenstown, BNZ, Aotea New Zealand Souvenirs and
Queenstown Lakes district Crs Mel Gazzard and Simon
The 20-strong group started the programme by watching video
clips of ambassadors enthusiastically explaining why they
took part and what they gained, plus a welcome from Ngai Tahu
kaumatua Michael Skerrett.
Ms Boyer explained the significance of his role, his cloak
Te Wai Pounamu, or the waters of greenstone as the name of
the South Island, and other original names and the meanings
for familiar places around the Wakatipu were revealed in a
summary of Maori history and legends.
The unusual tidal nature of Lake Wakatipu, or ''hollow of the
giant'', was explained from the perspectives of both Maori
myth and European science.
Facts and figures about the third-largest lake in New Zealand
were jotted down and committed to memory.
Ms Boyer discussed the exploits of explorers Nathanial
Chalmers in 1853 and Donald Hay in 1859, then the settling of
the Wakatipu by sheep farmers William Gilbert Rees and
Nicholas von Tunzelmann.
Their arrival was soon followed by the discovery and pursuit
of gold by Europeans, then Chinese, which changed countless
lives and the fortunes of the South Island forever.
The class enjoyed learning about the real pioneers who gave
their names to mountains, lakes and landmarks and, if
anything, more stories about them would be welcome.
The past came into focus as the present when Ms Boyer began
the section on tourism pioneers.
The invaluable contributions of Sir Henry Wigley and Bill
Hamilton from 1947 and the opening of Skyline Gondola in 1968
were touched upon.
However, the rise and fall and rise again of TSS
Earnslaw, the rapid expansion of Queenstown Airport
from paddock to international gateway and the development of
snow sports in the Wakatipu are tourism topics the programme
could delve into as well.
The group split into pairs for a multiple-choice quick-fire
quiz on what had been talked about, with almost everyone
achieving full marks.
Learning more about the history, culture and nature of
Queenstown turned out to be a pleasure and even fun for all,
far from the expectation of old school classrooms,
blackboards and learning by rote.
Each programme participant was given a pin featuring a silver
''Q'' on a black diamond, which lets people know the wearer
is a Queenstown Ambassador.
More than 100 people are now Queenstown Ambassadors and, with
the affordable course booked weeks in advance and Air New
Zealand about to add to the support shown by the council and
business operators, that number is sure to rise to the
benefit of the community.