Tourism continues to headline this Otago family’s diverse investments.
Sir Clifford Skeggs’ business, established in 1952 and now controlled by sons David, Bryan and Graeme, is a key player in Queenstown, Milford Sound and Te Anau through Southern Discoveries, which it bought in 2008.
Reflecting its tourism focus – after the sale of its aquaculture interests to New Zealand King Salmon Co and Sanford – the company’s head office, once Dunedin-based, is now tucked away in an industrial area near Queenstown’s airport.
Southern Discoveries, formerly known as Milford Sound Red Boats, boasts in its stable Te Anau-based Go Milford coach and cruise business, Milford Sound Cruises, the Milford Discovery Centre & Underwater Observatory, Harrisons Cove Kayaking, the Blue Duck Cafe and Bar and Queenstown Lake Cruise.
Its growth in Queenstown has included a 50% shareholding in KJet, the rebranded Kawarau Jet, and acquiring Queenstown Fishing Guides and Charters.
Later this year, the company will launch its multi-million dollar catamaran on Lake Wakatipu, which will carry up to 150 passengers to Mt Nicholas Station.
Southern Discoveries’ Queenstown visitor centre is relocating from Shotover St to a high-profile spot at the top of Queenstown’s mall.
This year the company collected accolades from online travel review sites TripAdvisor and Rankers.
The Milford Sound Development Authority – 49% owned by Skeggs Group – opened a $6 million harbour facility upgrade in May, including a new breakwater and additional wharves. Skeggs Group’s other interests include Akarua winery and Skeggs Bluff Oysters.
The possibility of moving inter-island ferries from Picton to Clifford Bay is making waves, with Skeggs Group subsidiary Pacifica Shipping being particularly vocal. In May, Pacifica chief executive Steve Chapman said there had been a significant shift to coastal shipping and he raised questions over the viability of the proposed new port.