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Happy to be here . . . Gerard Quinn is looking forward to embracing his role as economic development manager at the Waitaki District Council. PHOTO: EMILY MENKES

The Waitaki District Council’s first economic development manager has only just arrived but he feels right at home.

Gerard Quinn, who started in his new role two weeks ago, was born in Palmerston and said he was excited to be back in the district.

“I’ve been all over. I started life as an air traffic controller and then ended up running some business units. I worked in Australia but came back as I have two children living in Christchurch.”

Once he got into economic development, Mr Quinn worked on development strategy in Hawkes Bay and was chief executive of both the Canterbury Development Corporation and Growth Wellington.

“I’ve met the most amazing people, from Hillary Clinton and the mayor of Beijing down to year 12 students doing the young enterprise scheme at school and young entrepreneurs trying to make their first company – just fantastic people.”

He is excited to see what is going to happen in the region.

“Waitaki is very progressive and the people here are very enthusiastic.

“I do love it here. It’s a wonderful playground in both summer and winter which means it has a great basis to attract people here in all seasons.”

There are aspects of Oamaru Mr Quinn thinks deserve particular attention.

“You’ve got so many wonderful assets – the Victorian history, the precinct, the harbour. That’s a wonderful asset. You’ve got to think, ‘What can we make of that harbour?’

“We should look at plans for a Unesco global geopark, which would provide a platform for so many opportunities and businesses and industries to be developed around it.”

Remaining committed to the entire region was an important aspect of his job.

“We have to remember that it’s not just Oamaru. We always have to think about how we make it inclusive so that as many people as possible share in that prosperity and have their life improved.”

Despite having a lot on his plate, Mr Quinn remains committed to life outside work.

“I love sports. I used to play some underage rugby for Canterbury but I love all sports apart from golf, which I’m terrible at.

“I love road cycling so on my way down to Oamaru last Friday I bought a mountain bike so I can enjoy the trails of Waitaki.”

He also calls himself a “lover of the arts”, enjoying music from opera to Finnish heavy metal and everything in between.

His first task has been to gather ideas from his team and he is excited to hear from residents.

“Since I came here, I’ve discovered that Fergus [chief executive Fergus Power] and the whole team, both within the council and outside of it, have so many ideas about what we could do in Waitaki.

“So I want to crowdsource ideas from as many people as possible and then work out what we can realistically do with those ideas and how far we can take them.

“And I think we are developing a sense of our identity.

“Who are we? What is the authentic Waitaki? That’s something I want to find out.”