Built in 2007, The Rees Hotel Queenstown is a sophisticated five-star hotel situated right on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, in the South Island of New Zealand.
The Rees offers a variety of spacious and luxurious accommodation options including 60 Hotel rooms, 90 Apartments and five private, 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom Lakeside Residences, all with terraces, showcasing spectacular views across Lake Wakatipu to the alpine panorama of the Remarkable Mountain range.
The many exceptional features at The Rees Hotel include a library of rare books and art, courtesy shuttle to/from Queenstown town centre, complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, movies and local telephone calls, conference rooms, a fully-equipped gymnasium, secure undercover parking, electric car-charging station and its own private beach and wharf accessing jet-boat and water taxi services. Guests can swim from our wharf or beach – but it’s not for the faint-hearted!
Our team of experienced local and international staff pride themselves on delivering professional friendly service that consistently exceeds our guests’ expectations and is a hallmark of The Rees Hotel’s reputation.
Quiet, private and sophisticated, The Rees Hotel Queenstown epitomises southern hospitality at its finest and an authentic New Zealand experience.
The Rees Team
Mark Rose - Chief Executive
Roman Lee-Lo - Hotel Manager
Roman was a pre-opening team member of The Rees. He joined the hotel as Reservations Agent and after three months, he was promoted as one of the hotel’s first Duty Manager’s. His passion for creating exceptional guest experiences saw him progress and develop. He was appointed as Chair of the Health & Safety Committee and, had a passion that supported the CEO’s vision of continuing to build people capability. He championed Human Resources which saw the hotel establish its first HR function and various people-focussed initiatives alongside his role of Assistant Front Office Manager. After 5+ years with the team, Roman left to join the HR Team at Hilton Worldwide for almost 2 years, some of his key responsibilities included Recruitment, Health & Safety, Learning and Development and, Payroll.
Roman returned to The Rees in early 2016 as Manager, Special Events and Sales before being appointed as Executive Assistant Manager then Director of Operations. Roman was a founding member of the Human Resources Institute of NZ’s local branch in 2012 and, a past president. Roman is very proud to not only work for an award-winning hotel but to be surrounded by a team of highly experienced hospitality professionals at The Rees.
Roman was promoted to Hotel Manager in February, 2022.
Micka McDonald - Executive Assistant Manager
Micka worked as a Night Auditor to finance her Media Production course by day, which in turn, became the topic for most of her assessments as her experience working alone in a 3 star hotel on Elizabeth Street, Melbourne at The Hotel Y, (the old YMCA) was eventful every night. Hospitality lead Micka on her OE as she travelled around Canada working in reception roles in Hotels and Resorts in Jasper National Park and Sun Peaks Resort, then back to Australia to Far North Queensland taking on Supervisor roles at the Radisson Treetops resort and DayDream Island.
Micka was lured to Queenstown to work as a Duty Manager at The Heritage Hotel, before being promoted into the role of Reservations & Yield Manager which she held for 8 years. Micka began working at the Rees Hotel Queenstown in November 2014 as Front Office Manager. She brings 20 years of hospitality experience with her and is still challenged on a day to day basis.
Micka was recently promoted to Executive Assistant Manager in February 2022.
Lucas Fornes - Financial Controller
Lucas joined The Rees in April 2022. Lucas is a Qualified Accountant with more than 20 years of experience across a broad range of accounting, financial and administrative activities having worked in Argentina, U.S., and NZ.
Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Lucas first arrived in NZ in 2002 for holidays. In 2004, He settled in Queenstown permanently.
Lucas loves biking, swimming and outdoors. He is an active member of the community and, is one of the founder members of the first Open Water Swimming Club in Lake Whakatipu.
Corey Hume - Executive Chef
Throughout his career Corey has been a representative for New Zealand, Australia and Australasia (as a whole) numerous times and was a member of the Fonterra New Zealand Olympic Squad that competed at the Culinary Olympics in 2016.
Corey was the Executive chef for one of the world’s most exclusive and well-regarded lodges, Blanket Bay Lodge Glenorchy. There he and his team cater to some of the most discerning guests who all have the highest expectation in service, wine and of course cuisine. The lodge, has won numerous International awards. Most recently for its Spa and Food and Beverage, as the only NZ establishment awarded the NZ Winner of the World Luxury Restaurant and Spa Awards for 2017. Whilst running the day to day operations of the Blanket Bay kitchen, Corey still finds time to foster, train and mentor his team not only in their careers but also in the culinary competition arena where he has helped train New Zealand “Commis Chef of the Year” as well as New Zealand “Pastry Chef of the Year”. A true testament to his passion for cuisine, competitions and the hospitality industry. Corey is a Trustee of The New Zealand Culinary Arts Academy and the current Coach of the Bocuse d’Or Team New Zealand 2018, a role which he is eager to enable Candidates and Commis competitors to be their absolute best during the Bocuse d’Or Asia Pacific 2018 Selection.
Edward Johnson - Food and Beverage Manager
Originally from Birmingham, he was drawn to True South’s international reputation as a must-do destination for serious fine wine connoisseurs and gourmet lovers when visiting New Zealand’s top tourism hub.
“This is the ultimate for me – it’s where I can channel my passion for producing once-in-a-lifetime experiences. True South is certainly one of those places where you can make the memory of a meal last forever,” Johnson says. Aside from his hands-on managerial approach, the Restaurant Manager is an expert espresso barista and creator of signature cocktails. One previous role involved mastering over 50 concoctions on the menu. He’s been known for spearheading drinks list revamps using only locally sourced premium products. Now at True South he’s savouring his access to over 500 different types of wines and being part of the restaurant’s booked out seasonal Winemaker Culinary Series Dinners.
“Now I’m relishing being part of a team in an environment where the focus is on all round excellence and using local ingredients that are ethically sourced.”
Sharon Preston - Executive Housekeeper
Carl Lewis - Chief Engineer
Carl has years of experience in both customer service roles and, owning his own electrical business.
As a qualified electrician and fire alarm technician, he also brings past hotel experience having previously been Maintenance Manager at the Nugget Point Queenstown. Originally from the UK, Queenstown is now home for Carl having lived here for over 5 years.
Fenna Neumann - Front Office Manager
Born and raised in Germany, Fenna joined The Rees Hotel Queenstown in mid 2016 as a Front Office Duty Manager and quickly developed into the role of Reservations Executive before being promoted to Front Office Manager in February, 2022. With a passion for hospitality, she started her career in 2011 at the 5-star A-Rosa Resort in Sylt, Germany and graduated in 2014 from a German Hospitality School with Excellence. The Front Office department quickly became her new calling, with work experience from 5-star hotels such as the Grande Roche Hotel, in Cape Town, South Africa and The Hilton (New Zealand). Fenna recently received her New Zealand Residency. She enjoys working with an energetic team at The Rees Hotel, Queenstown where she is empowered to take on new challenges.
Caroline Davidson - The Rees PR Director, Australia
Managing Director of Davidson Communications Pty Ltd
After a period in international hospitality management for the Greater Union organization, Caroline began her own business, Davidson Communications Pty Ltd, in 1990. This successful public relations and destination marketing business specialises in the leisure, entertainment and tourism industries. In addition, Caroline’s versatile skills and first-class media relationships have been employed as a consultant strategist and a specialist PR expert to benefit a range of clients as diverse as Australian Federal Government programs and launches, national sporting events and festivals, innovative corporate product launches and celebrity profiling.
Caroline was a shareholder and Director of Public Relations for Select Hotels & Resorts International between 2004-2009, successfully re-branding and building an enviable profile for this marketing group for over 50 unique, high-end luxury accommodation experiences across Australia, New Zealand Asia and the Pacific.
Davidson Communications has provided successful brand management, destination representation, public relations strategies, campaigns and initiatives in Australia, New Zealand and Asia-Pacific for a range of high profile international brands and corporate clients such as Rocky Mountain International (representing tourism boards for initially Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota & South Dakota and since July 2015 MT, ND, SD and WY); Visit Denver ( projects); Jackson Hole Mountain Resort/ Jackson Chamber of Commerce (projects); Travelocity ( t/a ZUJI.com.au in Australia); Starwood Hotels, Rendezvous Hotels & Resorts International;
Select Hotels & Resorts International; Hard Rock Cafe; Hard Rock Hotels and Resorts (Asia), The Rees Hotel Queenstown and The Noosa International Food & Wine Festival ( NIFW, QLD) over a twenty five year period.
Caroline Davidson is a member of various PR Professional organisations and is the recipient of several PR Awards.
William Gilbert Rees
The Founder - Dynasty of Cricket
William’s broader family was practically the founding dynasty of English cricket.
The Rees, Pocock, Gilbert and Grace families produced no less than 12 cousins who were all first class cricketers.
Four played for England and others represented New South Wales, Victoria, and various provinces in New Zealand. William alone represented West Country, New South Wales, Otago, and Canterbury.
Most famous of them all was William’s godson, cousin and namesake, William Gilbert Grace.William gave young W.G. Grace his first cane-handled cricket bat and coached him in its use. The godson grew to be the legendary captain of England who dominated the world of cricket for an amazing 44 years.Godson and godfather corresponded regularly and there is a copy of W.G. Grace’s opinion of Australian cricket and Australian umpires in The Rees Library.
By 1852, the young Rees had completed his education at the Royal Naval School, Camberwell, an engineering apprenticeship, and a spell as assistant master at Mount Radford College, Exeter. Now, he was setting out to seek his fortune – on the gold diggings at Turon in New South Wales.
It turned out to be farming not prospecting that fascinated W.G. in Australia. He quickly formed a partnership with two established Australian graziers, George Gammie and Colonel William Lewis Grant, to develop new runs on unmapped land being offered in New Zealand.But, first, W.G. was set on marrying his cousin and childhood sweetheart, Frances Gilbert.
He returned to England in 1858. The wedding took place mid-year, then W.G. and his new bride set sail for New Zealand. William and Frances were off to find “The Promised Land of Rees”.
The newly-weds arrived in Port Chalmers in February 1859. W.G. went straight to work. He acquired an established sheep run at Dalvey, where Tapanui stands today.Mission accomplished, he hurried back to Dunedin to join Frances for the birth of their first child, Mary Rose.
While Frances recovered, W.G. rode north to the Shag River. At Coal Creek, he leased some more land to hold the stock that his partners would ship to him from New South Wales. Then, he returned to Dunedin to organise his expedition.
The Rees - Exploration. In January 1860, Rees set off – with a party of six on horses with packhorses to carry their supplies. They had a long rough ride ahead – and most of it through unmapped territory.
The Rough Ride
The riders headed northeast from Dunedin to the Waitaki river mouth, up the river to Omarama, to Ahuriri and through the Lindis to the upper reaches of the Clutha River. Then, it was southwest to Wilkins Station near the junction of the rivers draining Lakes Hawea and Wanaka, before heading along the Cardrona range. They climbed to the top of a ridge to scout the view.
Mountains, mountains, and more mountains – a grand but dismal sight for hopeful farmers. It was enough to make four of the six pack it in – but not W.G.and Nicholas von Tunzelmann. They pressed on further south along the Crown Range. On their next ride to a ridge top, they were rewarded with the first sight of what would become known as “The Promised Land of Rees”.
For three weeks, WG and Von Tunzelmann probed the plains and peaks along the northern shores of the lake. It was an eventful journey – by horse, driftwood raft, and finally on foot. Along the way, they encountered quicksand, fought off wild dogs and rats, narrowly escaped a bushfire, and endured the pangs of hunger.
Six weeks after their departure from Dunedin, they returned – ragged and gaunt – to file sketch maps of what they had seen and to lodge their claims to grazing rights. Rees gained rights to graze more than 240,000 acres in the Wakatipu basin – provided he could stock the land quickly. That meant driving 3,000 merino sheep across the rugged mountain ranges and fast-flowing rivers that stood between Coal Creek and the Arrow River basin. It was a daunting task that WG had to accomplish before his grazing rights would be confirmed.
The task of settling the land proved just as challenging. William and Frances travelled to Invercargill and purchased a whaleboat from the renowned southern pilot Captain Lewis Akkers. They named their boat the Undine, packed it with building supplies and stores and bought a bullock team to haul it overland to Lake Wakatipu.
Undine’s first lake voyage took WG and Frances to see work start on their new homestead at Queenstown and then back to Kingston so they could return to Dunedin via Dalvey. This was the route WG planned to use regularly to bring in his supplies and pack out his wool. In fact, Undine would be the first of a fleet of ferries that WG would soon be operating on Lake Wakatipu – though he didn’t know it at the time.
The Great Sheep Drive
With the homestead building under way at Queenstown, Rees could start his great sheep drive. His young shepherd Alfred Duncan thought he knew a short cut. He would jump the sheep across what was almost a natural bridge across the thundering water of the Kawarau Gorge. But the sheep baulked at the jump.
So WG and Duncan decided to try rafting the sheep to the other side of the gorge instead. WG swam a rope across the river to haul the raft back and forth. On the first crossing, the raft overturned, trapping Duncan beneath it. A swimmer sent to free him also became trapped. WG saw that the only chance of a rescue lay in cutting the rope on one side of the gorge and to let the raft swing to the other. It worked – but the idea of rafting the flock over the wild Kawarau obviously would not.
There was no alternative now but to back track for miles and then take the long northern trail that WG and Von Tunzelmann had blazed over the Crown Range. So much for short cuts.
It took four weeks to complete the great sheep drive. When it was done, Frances joined WG at Queenstown. By now she was in an advanced state of pregnancy with their second child. George Manning Rees was born two weeks after her arrival and died less than two months later. Tragedy would strike again, within a month. Frances’s brother John Gilbert, who had traveled to New Zealand with the newly-weds, was drowned trying to cross the Clutha River. Then, there was another drowning.
The Rees ferry boat over-turned in a storm on the lake. One passenger, William Rogers, was swept away and lost. Another, John Mitchell, was saved by WG’s boat master Jack Tewa. For his bravery, Jack Tewa was awarded the Royal Humane Society medal, on WG’s recommendation. Jack was about to trigger a dramatic change in the fortunes of The Promised Land of Rees…
Striking it Rich
In August 1862, Jack Tewa had barely returned to work after his rescue when he turned up a trace of gold in a shovel full of gravel from The Arrow. WG knew what that could mean. The Otago gold rush was already under way. The law required grazing to make way for mining if a workable prospect had been found.
He struck a deal with his employees: keep quiet about the gold until the shearing was finished, and there would be food and time to work the prospect. The deal held till the wool was packed – but barely. His shearers, Thomas Arthur and Harry Redfern, were next to strike it rich – at the Shotover River. Two of the world’s most significant gold fields had been discovered in the very heart of The Promised Land. The news was quickly out. Within weeks, thousands of gold-hungry, food-hungry miners poured onto the Rees runs.
Days of Gold
William Rees did not resist the miners’ rush. He welcomed them, fed them from his farm stock, ferried their gold out and their supplies back.
He would turn out in the dead of night, with a revolver tucked in his belt, to ensure that every hungry miner had a share of flour and food when his ferry boat docked.
When a burly miner shaped up and challenged his honesty WG drew on his boxing skills and he felled his aggressive critic with a single blow. It didn’t happen again. Rees held a vision for Queenstown that stretched far beyond the here-today-gone-tomorrow rush of the miners. He used his engineering experience to set up a timber mill on Pigeon Island and began constructing the major buildings of the town.
WG converted his woolshed into Queenstown’s first hotel, and went on to build the first government offices, first church, first Masonic lodge, and was instrumental in the development of the first hospital.
Building the Community
Rees became a pillar of the new Queenstown community – the founding president of its first cricket club, first jockey club, first acclimatisation society, chairman of the first Town Committee and lay reader in the Anglican church. In 1863, W.G. was operating no less than 14 businesses in the town – as a carrier, coach proprietor, lighterman, boat builder, hotel keeper, store keeper, contractor, sawyer, gold buyer, slaughterman, baker, land agent, runholder, and ferryman.
He showed his sporting form at the town’s St Patrick’s Day festival, when he won the “single sticks” fencing contest, his horse Bucanneer took first place in the hurdles event, and his yacht Young America led the fleet home over a 20 mile course in the main race of the regatta. W.G’s enduring passion for cricket produced an invitation to join the Otago cricket team in 1864 for their match against the first All-England XI to tour New Zealand.
The English team included another famous cricketing cousin, Teddy Grace, who was caught out by W.G. during the game. As Teddy said: “It was quite a treat to watch him.”
The Tiring Battle
The formal proclamation of the Wakatipu Gold Fields at the beginning of 1863 plunged Rees into a tiring battle to hold onto his rapidly vanishing dream of a great farm on an idyllic lake shore. By now, the Wakatipu district was studded with rough-and-tumble mining communities, inhabited by rambunctious, colourful characters like One-eyed Jimmy, Captain Moonlight, Bully Hayes, the Buckinghams, and the bard of the goldfields, Charles Thatcher.
Unable to turn back the clock, WG turned to the courts. He fought and lost a case to exercise pre-emptive rights to land surrounding his homestead in Queenstown. In the end, he had to purchase his lots in the town like everyone else. He was more successful with his claim to compensation from the Otago Provincial Council for loss of large tracts of his grazing land.
Midway through 1864, the Council announced settlement of the claim – without revealing its terms. Rees and his partners were rumoured to have received 10,000 pounds for the loss of grazing rights to over 240,000 acres.
Rees had moved from Queenstown to a new homestead near the Kawarau Falls by the time his settlement with the Provincial Council was announced. The Rees–Gammie–Grant partnership was formally dissolved in July 1865 and WG sold his Kawarau Falls and town properties a year later.
There is evidence that the partnership had come under stress, not only from the sudden loss of grazing to mining but also from outbreaks of disease among the sheep, and the failure of Gammie’s investment in a costly country house and farm in Oxford – Shotover House. In April 1867, the Wakatipu community gathered to say farewell to W.G., and Frances. They presented the departing couple with a purse of sovereigns that would be smelted and reshaped into a silver tea service. An illuminated scroll expressed their sentiments: “The interest you have at all times shown in the welfare of the district cannot be too highly estimated, and the services rendered by your charity and kindness too warmly appreciated by us.”
After their farewell, Willam. and Frances Rees moved on to manage a series of South Island sheep stations – at Benmore, then Otekaieke, Tekapo, and Galloway near Alexandra.
W.G. took up the position of Government Stock Inspector at Timaru, then further postings – to Greymouth, Ashburton, and finally Wellington – before his retirement in 1897. William Gilbert Rees died in Wairau Hospital, Marlborough, on 31 October 1898. Frances lived on for a further 28 years – dying at Stoke in 1926.
Today, they are remembered most for the achievements of their eight meteoric years in Queenstown. The Rees, Arrow, Dart and Shotover Rivers. Coronet, Cecil, and Walter Peaks, The Mounts – Nicholas, Alfred, Ben Lomond – Jack’s Point, Arthur’s Point, and Frankton (for Frances) are named by them, or after them and others who worked for them.
William and Frances have left an enduring mark on The Promised Land of Rees – the True South.