New direction for Clutha Licensing Trust promising

The Hotel South Otago in Balclutha. Photo by Hamish MacLean.
The Hotel South Otago in Balclutha, one of the six hospitality businesses owned by the Trust. Photo by Hamish MacLean.
New Clutha Licensing Trust (CLT) leadership is signalling a positive change in direction.

The trust, which proposed selling out of the hospitality trade last year in the light of diminishing returns, appointed Balclutha man Mike Curtis to the position of general manager earlier this month.

The former Westpac Balclutha branch manager said he was "fired up" to turn around the fortunes of the publicly-owned trust, and its six hospitality businesses in South Otago.

Established in 1955, CLT owns and operates five hotels and a liquor store, in Clinton, Balclutha, Owaka and Milton.

In August last year, the CLT board floated the idea of divesting its hospitality businesses as profits kept shrinking.

It proposed becoming an investment trust alone, arguing this would allow it to deliver greater financial returns to the district.

The proposal met fierce opposition from staff and residents, and was eventually shelved.

Mr Curtis told the Otago Daily Times he had been appointed to "see what can be made" of the trust's hospitality side.

"We're aware of the challenges - both specific to our businesses, and within hospitality more generally - but I've never believed you can shrink your way to greatness. I'm here to work hard with what is a very talented, able team to see what we can do to improve profits, and take the trust forward into a successful future."

Although he had topped and tailed his professional life to date in the banking sector - beginning at BNZ Blenheim after leaving school - Mr Curtis had also spent "about 20 successful years" working in large-format retail in New Zealand.

This had given him insight into working with a business's strengths, he said.

"The old adage of `sales fixes everything' holds true in most businesses. If we're going to improve profits, we need to listen to our customers, and to those who would like to be customers, and give them what they want."

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