Podcast: Chris Parkin―A personality that isn’t frightened to challenge

An interest in science and a taste of business during a year in Sydney saw Te Herenga Waka―Victoria University of Wellington distinguished alumnus Chris Parkin CNZM become one of the first students at the University to complete degrees in both Science and Commerce.

The entrepreneur, philanthropist, art collector and patron, former hotelier, and three-term Wellington City councillor says the combination of the two degrees has given him an advantage in the commercial world.

“A scientific education gives you a wonderful problem-solving ability because that’s effectively what it’s all about. It’s all about questioning, analysis and drawing conclusions based on facts, and that’s enormously helpful in any commercial environment.”

“I’ve always been a lateral thinker and problem-solver. Most of the obstacles I’ve come up against in my life I’ve seen ways around them and I think that makes for a personality that isn’t frightened to challenge.”

It was that ability to think outside the box that saw Chris find a way to move the Museum Hotel (now QT Wellington) across the road to make way for Te Papa Tongarewa to be built.

When it came time to develop a business strategy that would set the hotel apart, Chris drew on his love of art to create an eclectic art collection, which is still exhibited throughout the hotel. He credits his parents for encouraging this love, but also notes the University’s art collection was an inspiration.

He has been known in the past to refer to art as “very good wallpaper that stimulates us”. He expands this to say, “In every collection, every now and then something captures your eye and you want to look closer and it will leave an impression on you…I know there will be certain pieces for certain people that will catch their eye.”

Chris has worked in Australia and the United States but has always been drawn back to his hometown. The three-time city councillor says it’s time for Wellingtonians to “step up” to ensure inspired leadership for the city’s future.

His latest property development in Wakefield Street is an innovative apartment building, which will be built from modules.

He speaks to Kaiwhakakapi Tumu Whakarae—Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Jennifer Windsor as part of our distinguished alumni podcast series.