If the sun is out this winter - and there is no work to do - Peter Sundstrom will be out skiing.
It’s one of the perks he has secured since trading harsh Australian summers for New Zealand’s party town of Queenstown - more precisely the lower Shotover river district.
After working in various temporary IT and contracting roles in Australia and New Zealand in the mid 1980s and 1990s, and a three-year stint in Wellington that included working for Datacom, he bought land in Queenstown in 1999.
Sundstrom says he got into the district’s property market before prices “went crazy”, and in 2007 he was able to leave Wellington and settle in a new subdivision where his business, Pete’s Computer Solutions, remains based.
Sundstrom says he and his wife moved to the central Otago region after getting sick of Australian summers and living through bushfires in Canberra, which destroyed many houses.
While at Datacom as a senior consultant, he was either working remotely or commuting to Wellington, but this proved increasingly difficult so he left after a year.
One of his friends in Wellington had a passion for gliding and worked for Wellington-based web development company Katipo Communications, and Sundstrom entered into a job share arrangement, working the summer shift while his friend spent time gliding at Omarama.
Sundstrom has been able to continue this part-time work.
He has also started contracting, completing work for American and Canadian companies. But his challenge is competition from emerging countries like India, where he says workers offer “ridiculous” rates such as $10 per hour.
Among his recent contract work is a project expanding servers and upgrading systems for a Canadian internet radio company.
“You can do this remotely using Skype, MSN messenger, standard email and you have remote access to their servers. Typically, I work irregular hours so the time difference is not much of a hindrance,” he says.
Although Pete’s Computer Solutions was created to serve customers in the Queenstown and Wakatipu areas, Sundstrom runs another firm called Ginini Technologies for his remote work.
“I always realised the work I would be doing here would be different to when overseas and in the city. It would be home-based, virus updates, general internet set up,” he says.
“Most of the work I get is via word of mouth and people seeing the website. There is a certain amount of competition for the home market - at least four or five others in the region are doing those things.”
Some competition is friendly, says Sundstrom, adding he has come to an arrangement with local IT company PC Mechanic to refer work to each other when times are busy.
He says his experience is his point of difference, particularly because he has spent time in high-level technical roles and has been a project management consultant.
However, he tries to explain technical matters in a simple way to avoid baffling the home user.
He also has an interest in photography and maintains his own stock photo library, which generates some income. In addition, he teaches people to use digital cameras.
His company does not hold stock, as he prefers to use websites like Pricespy to see who has the best deals.
“You can find a huge price spread between the top price and the lowest price. Because I don’t buy enough hardware, I would not qualify for reseller discounts, but looking at prices I don’t automatically go for the lowest price,” he says.
“Living down here, you rely on delivery times and customer support. I don’t mind paying more from a reputable company. IT Express in Ponsonby often get a five-star rating on Pricespy.”
Sundstrom is content with his southern lifestyle, saying business is “ticking along nicely”. While many businesses in Queenstown suffered a property-related boom that turned to bust last summer, holding back their IT investment, he was not affected. The contract work he carries out under Ginini Technologies has increased too.
He is confident about the year ahead and plans to branch into internet marketing, which he believes will offer “lucrative revenue streams”.
He likes the flexibility of working from home, though he also enjoys the personal contact of leaving his home office when he can.
“If the weather is good for skiing, I can jump up the mountain.” he says.