Sir John Davies (KNZM)
For service to Tourism
Sir John Davies is the owner and founder of the Trojan Holdings, the company which owns notable tourism assets such as several guided walks and ski fields.
Born in Wellington in 1942 and raised in Dunedin, Sir John arrived in the Wakatipu area in the early 60s and worked as a musterer and farm cadet before buying into his first business, Wakatipu Transport, which is now known as Northern Southland Transport.
After three years of hard work, he realised he could not afford to buy his own farm, and so took up an opportunity to buy a 40% stake in Wakatipu Transport. It was a small company and for the first 15 year, he worked hard for very little money, with very long hours. After 30 years the business had been transformed into Northern Southland Transport with a fleet of 250 vehicles.
Sir John got involved in local body politics in 1975, serving as a councillor on the former Queenstown Borough Council for 10 years, and serving as its mayor from 1983 to 1986. He was voted the first mayor of the amalgamated Queenstown Lakes District Council and served as mayor from 1986 to 1989.
During his tenure on the council and in his time as mayor, John realised there was great potential for Queenstown’s tourism industry. He decided to invest in tourism while retaining his transport interests and, in the mid-1980s, purchased the Government’s 40% share in Queenstown Airport, believing that the airport was the key to developing the area’s full tourism industry. Despite plenty of public doubt regarding the its viability as an international airport, the investment proved successful and there are now 350 flights into Queenstown from Australia at the height of the ski season.
In 1990, using his family investment company Trojan Holdings Limited, a holding company now jointly managed by Sir John’s daughter, Jacqui and son Mike, Sir John purchased the Routeburn Guided Walk, the Milford Walk, the Greenstone walk and the Hermitage Hotel at Mt Cook. This venture proved similarly successful - in the years that Sir John has owned the walks, the number of visitors on them has climbed from 3000 to 10,000 a year.
In 2002, Sir John alongside fellow entrepreneurs and ski field staff purchased the Coronet Peak, the Remarkables and Mt Hutt ski fields. He invested $30 million in developing Coronet Peak alone. Trojan Holdings Limited now has significant interests in New Zealand Bungy, Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Village and Glacier Explorers.
Sir John has invested confidently and consistently in Queenstown, even during the difficult economic years from 2008 to 2012. He ranks his most successful mayoral accomplishment his success in convincing his fellow councilors to buy the freehold block of land that is now Queenstown’s Village Green.
Sir John served as Chairman of Queenstown Airport Corporation, was appointed a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order in 1995 and on a lifetime achievement gong at the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce business excellence awards in 2010. He was a driving force behind the establishment of the Queenstown Events Centre and in getting international cricket games to the town.
Sir John has been an active contributor to conservation projects where his company is involved; for example, Routeburn & Milford Tracks and the Hermitage at Mount Cook. He was also lead funder for the Queenstown Event Centre – the Sir John Davies Oval and contributed significant funds for a new gymnasium at his old school, John McGlashan College in Dunedin.
John Stratton Davies was made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s 2014 Birthday honours list for his services to business and tourism.