Hole of a year


You could say the Queenstown property scene endured some shaky foundations in 2009. Here’s some of the more memorable shudders.

Hendo’s Hole sold, hope for Kawarau Falls

The fate of developer Dave Henderson’s excavated hole for his aborted Five Mile township and Nigel McKenna’s equally ambitious Kawarau Falls Station are two local projects to make national headlines. After Five Mile’s receivership in 2008, the 31ha site is put up for sale in February. By November, Hendo’s Hole becomes “Gaping Hole” as Aucklander Tony Gapes, backed by supermarket giant Progressive Enterprises, buys the 7.8ha portion west of Grant Road and starts planning anew. Despite McKenna’s Kawarau Falls companies going into receivership in May, receivers allow the $500 million first stage to proceed – it’s now near completion as speculation increases that stage two will also be a goer.

More mortgagee sales

Hendo’s Hole isn’t the only large local property going up for mortgagee sale as the credit crunch bites. Three in a row to go under the hammer are announced on this page in May-June – a six-bedroom Closeburn Station mansion labelled a “great home” by The New York Times, a development site between Shotover and Man Streets, and a consented Hilton Hotel site above Frankton Rd which remains unsold. Last month Mountain Scene reports a Queenstown Hill mansion selling for $3.75m just hours before its mortgagee auction – owner Glen Carless, who built what Australia’s Better Homes & Gardens TV show labelled one of the world’s best houses, reveals 10 earlier deals fell flat. It’s understood one of those early offers – at $6.5m – was made by the same Aussie who then clinches the property at auction for almost $3m less.

Neighbours fight developers

Nine landowners launch a plan change to carve up 31ha south of Arrowtown for 150-plus homesites. Speaking for many, resident Karen Swaine says Arrowtown South’s “urban sprawl” will be detrimental to the town’s historic character. Meanwhile, Lake Hayes Estate developer Mike Coburn, who provided hundreds of affordable sections for locals, is under siege from many of them over plans for a 12-unit high-density complex off the subdivision’s entrance.

Build it and they’ll rent it

Five commercial buildings are completed and, despite the recession, most fill up with tenants paying the going rate. We’re talking The Mountaineer and 24 Rees St, opposite each other, together with Frankton’s Terrace Junction and the downtown Ngai Tahu Property and Church St complexes. However, Ngai Tahu boss Gordon Craig says he was asking would-be tenants how much they could afford for his last vacant space, while Church St’s ground-floor tenancies remain empty.

Big drop but apartments move

Colliers International reports local managed apartments dropping 20-60 per cent in value during the past 18 months. Pounamu Apartments, originally selling for up to $780,000, fetch $380,000-$420,000 or even less. But suddenly, Southern Lakes Real Estate’s Brendan Quill sells a Pounamu upper-floor unit at auction for $492,000, after seven parties lodge 94 bids. Yet things go from bad to worse for former apartment king Ross Wensley as buyers in his latest complex, Marina Baches, pull out of their deals.

Super-home teeters

Work finally resumes towards year’s end on Queenstown’s most expensive home, the $10m glass-encased “Jagged Edge” above Glenorchy Rd, as owner Julian McPike takes direct action. McPike says he shelled out almost $5m to design-build company Jagged Ltd but it quit in March, citing lack of funds. He claims Jagged passed on more than $4m to main contractor Slant Build, which is chased into court-ordered liquidation in December by creditor United Scaffolding. McPike hopes to complete his mansion by next Christmas.