Hilton Queenstown Hero

Hilton Queenstown: Attracting a wider market to the Queenstown region

In December 2010, Hilton Worldwide announced two new properties in Queenstown. This marked the brand’s entry into the resort town and the expansion of the Hilton Hotels & Resorts portfolio in New Zealand to four hotels. Hawkins was appointed as main contractor for the 178-room Hilton Queenstown Hotel on the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu.

What we did:

We won the contract to build the Hilton Queenstown Hotel, comprising around 20,000m² of floor area over eight levels. At the time, this was arguably the largest ever commercial building project undertaken in the Central Otago area. It boasts:

  • 178 bedrooms
  • meeting and event facilities (including five conference rooms) catering for up to 300
  • a lakeside restaurant
  • a lobby lounge and wine bar
  • a gymnasium
  • a 25 metre indoor heated lap pool
  • Queenstown’s largest spa with 10 treatment rooms, steam rooms and saunas.

We commenced construction in October 2007 and spent almost four years undertaking enabling works, construction and fit-out of the hotel before practical completion was achieved in February 2011.

During the course of the project we managed 48 different sub-contractors and their staff. In the months leading up to practical completion we were managing an average 150 workers onsite daily. We also organised the procurement of specialist materials for this 5-star prestigious complex. Following practical completion, our staff remained on site to assist the developer and the Hilton to optimise the hotel to meet the Hilton’s operational requirements.

As the complexity of the project increased on a weekly basis, we continually fine-tuned programming and cost management systems to accommodate ongoing variations. We were able to drive cost savings during the construction by providing smart and creative alternative build options to the client without compromising key delivery dates.

The health and safety record on the project was exemplary, and the systems we introduced have been praised in raising the overall standards within the local contracting market.

Unique challenges:

  • The resource consent stipulated a building height restriction of 10 metres above the original lay of the land, which posed a number of challenges for the design and construction teams. For example, the designs included 18 metre high retaining walls, which had to be completed and certified prior to the commencement of construction.
  • The site set-out involves approximately 130 grids and 135 piles, along with foundation beams, to support the building. Complex curved façade internal walls including spiral staircases and car park ramps meant that many of the rooms and spaces had unique shapes and dimensions. This required stringent quality assurance systems as duplication was limited and the team continually encountered complex junctions.
  • A number of the materials used were developed specifically for this project. As a result we had to ensure that they were an “acceptable solution” under the building code, which required careful planning. For example, the façade consists of a schist stone veneer and the roof membrane is covered with pebbles to ensure the building blends into the surrounding environment.
  • Unlike other major centres, supply and logistics were a challenge in Queenstown and required careful planning and procurement. The transient nature of the local workforce, in what is effectively a holiday town, was also a significant operational challenge with constant site induction for new staff.
  • Because a number of other buildings were being constructed in the near vicinity of Reserve North we had to carefully coordinate access with other contractors.
  • The position of the construction site on the edge of the pristine and highly visible Lake Wakatipu, meant strict environmental control systems were employed on the project. The hotel is located on a sharply sloping site at the foot of a large hill, which meant water run-off into the lake had to be handled by strict site management standards. We adopted mitigation approaches including truck washout areas, settlement tanks for chemicals and plaster cleaning stations.

The outcome:

We delivered this project defect-free as a result of a strong, experienced leadership team who created an effective team environment driven by an underlying passion for the project.

Since the hotel has opened Queenstown has benefitted both from the Hilton’s international reputation and power-house marketing machine and its ability to host large international conferences, something Queenstown was previously lacking.


We identified Queenstown as a strategically significant location for Hilton Worldwide and feel this project represents a development of the highest quality and world-class design. In addition to our award winning properties in key gateway cities such as Auckland and Taupo, this development will form an essential part of our growing network of hotels in New Zealand.

Martin Rinck

Area President, Hilton Worldwide, Asia Pacific