Steam train agent chuffed

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Interest in buying the Kingston Flyer is coming from around the world, says Christchurch-based business broker Adrian Chisholm.

The owners, chiefly Auckland developer Dan McEwan, are asking $3 million for the Flyer. This includes two vintage steam trains, a railway station with tavern and cafe at Kingston, a station at Fairlight, and a rail line in a 73-hectare freehold corridor.

Chisholm says corporates, including local tourism companies, and private buyers have expressed interest. One of these comprises two families making a joint approach.

As this is written, about 250 people have visited the sale website.

A covenant rules out the trains being moved from the district, which would be an engineering feat anyway, given no rail line out remains.

The property “bulges out” near Fairlight, making 4.6ha suitable for other uses. Ideas include an airstrip and a car racing track, Chisholm says.

Kingston Flyer Steamtrain Ltd, owned by Phil Kerr and Queens­towner Ian Caldwell, leases the Flyer from the McEwan interests. Kerr, with about 20 staff, runs it.

Chisholm expects Kerr will continue running the venture and says he’s being co-operative.

Ideally the new buyer will increase marketing. As well as the two tourism companies interested in “clipping Kingston Flyer on to their own businesses”, some other potential buyers with marketing skills would set up an office to promote the vintage train.

Like the steamer Earnslaw, the Flyer provides an accounting twist. Non-land fixed assets typically depreciate.

The Flyer and the Earnslaw should appreciate as they become even rarer working relics
of the steam age.

Chisholm, who in the go-go 1980s headed the short-lived Hobson Developments and put up O’Connell’s Pavilion in Queenstown, worked on the Earnslaw in 1967 and remembers her calling at Kingston on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The steamer no longer goes to Kingston but he says the wharf remains in good condition and there’s no reason why she couldn’t call again.

Kerr, laid up with the flu, told BizScene from his bed that the Flyer’s season, which began in October, is going well. He’s happy about the high buyer interest.

Chisholm’s Flyer listing includes after the $3m price the clarification, “plus GST (if any)”.

He explains that effectively – if a business sells as a going concern with forward bookings “and there’s business that day”, it’s zero rated for GST. If it’s idle, however, the buyer likely pays GST then claims
it back.

“We as real estate agents don’t want to be caught.”

Motelier leaving

Sarah Clinton is selling her Queenstown Bella Vista motel.

She worked in dairy farming in Ireland and continued this when she moved to New Zealand in 2000. Three and a half years ago, she bought the motel rather than a dairy farm. Queenstown beat “the middle of nowhere” for the young entrepreneur.

Clinton is studying for a master’s degree in agricultural economics and plans a career closer to family in Ireland’s County Meath.

She describes the Bella Vista chain as a brand-sharing cooperative. Her motel’s 24 units generate ample profit to employ a full-time manager.

Clinton and her manager have maintained 100 per cent occupancy from Boxing Day to Easter every year, and had 86.5 per cent occupancy last month.

Neill Birss will chase on your biz tips: neillb@maxnet.co.nz