Huge freehold Wakatipu site for sale

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One of Queenstown’s largest freehold blocks – with massive development potential – is up for grabs.

Working farm Kawarau River Station covers the sun-facing northern slopes of the Remarkables and has only twice been on the market since World War II. 

Its northern boundary is a whopping 14km stretch of the Kawarau River. 

“I think for a lot of people to see such a huge block of land for sale right on the edge of Queenstown will be a real surprise,” local listing agent Bas Smith says.

“I think there is a real potential to add immense value to the New Zealand economy if someone buys this property.”

The Ray White agent won’t talk figures but it’s understood the 1826-hectare property should fetch well above $12 million.

Smith says one of the valuable selling points is the station’s private ownership. 

“The majority of the high country in Queenstown now is either Department of Conservation reserve or is in pastoral lease.”

This farm was also in pastoral lease when the existing owner Steve Laing bought it in 1995.

Through a tenure review process, however, Laing four years later surrendered 1262 hectares of mountain top to the Crown, including parts of The Remarkables Ski Area and Doolans Basin. 

Laing freeholded the balance.

Smith says the station’s also valuable because it offers incredible privacy so close to the hustle and bustle of Queenstown.

“There’s a huge demand for privacy these days at the luxury end,” he says.

“There’s no existing public access through the land yet it is 15 minutes’ drive from an international airport.”

The station has a well-formed internal road that was once the main gateway to Queenstown, which Laing opens up every Easter for the last stage of a popular mountain bike race.

However it also has water access via the Kawarau River that connects with Lake Wakatipu and downtown Queenstown.

Smith says there’s development potential, despite the property’s landscape values, “because it is surprisingly unviewable from a lot of places”.

The farm once curled around some of the western face of the Remarkables, however Laing subdivided off about 150ha in three blocks. 

A large house built on one of those blocks has been on the market for almost $9m.

At the Gibbston end, the station has got identical terraces to those growing some of the Chard Farm Vineyard’s best grapes right next door.

There’s also hydro potential from two significant water sources, Rastus Burn and Owens Creeks.

Smith says the farm – one of the last significant ones left in the Wakatipu Basin – has profitably grazed cattle and red deer on 190ha of river terrace, and merino sheep in the high country.

There are 220 head of cattle and 450 breeding hinds and till recently there were 1500 merinos but the high country land is currently undergoing a breathing period.

The station’s European history stems back to the 1800s goldrush days when it served as the main access to Queenstown.

The Morven Ferry Hotel was located on the property and travellers would reach it after taking the Morven ferry across the Kawarau River.

The farm, originally Cone Peak Station, was subdivided from the large Kawarau Station in 1910. Jack Kennedy, who bought it in 1948, ran about 6000 sheep and extended the woolshed, originally built in 1914.

His farmhouse burnt down in 1970 and was rebuilt in 1984.

A qualified engineer working in the overseas super yacht industry, Laing vividly recalls where he was when he bought the station in 1995: “I was in San Diego for the America’s Cup – the year NZL 32, aka Black Magic, took out the title.

“Not only did Team NZ win their first America’s Cup but I also bought an iconic piece of NZ’s landscape. What a day it was,” Laing says.