Saviours of historic Queenstown homestead

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New life is to be breathed into one of Queenstown’s most historic and prominent homesteads. 

Undisclosed new owners have bought Hulbert House – bordered by Ballarat, Hallenstein and Malaghan Streets – and plan to convert it into a boutique hotel. 

Local New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty agent Colleen Murfin – who brokered the sale – says the purchasers have engaged high-profile des­­­igner Neil McLachlan to help restore the 1888 homestead to a very high level. 

Auckland-based McLach­lan – the designer on TV’s Changing Rooms and Hot Property – will work with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) to ensure its historic integrity is retained, Murfin says. 

“This ownership will bring Hulbert House back to its former glory but with facilities befitting the 21st century.” 

Questions were raised about the homestead’s future when the children of deceased owner Ted Sturt put the property on the market last year. 

Sturt, however, had negotiated a protective heritage covenant on the title with NZHPT after initially restoring Hulbert House in the 1980s. 

Sturt ran it as a five-room guesthouse till he died in 2009. 

Sturt’s son Guy says it had been looking very tired and that it’s probably no longer livable. 

NZHPT area manager Owen Graham says his trust will advise the new owners on “minimising impacts on valuable heritage while helping them understand areas where maybe the significance isn’t so high”. 

Guy says that the bathrooms, for example, aren’t in their original locations, and their fittings aren’t original.
Guy adds that an auction of his father’s chattels will be held in April. 

The sale price is undisclosed but Guy says “it’s close to what we were after”. 

The property’s capital value is $2.4 million – the land component is $2.25m. 

Hulbert House was originally built as a grand home for receiver of gold and court official Horatio Nelson Firth. 

It first served as a guesthouse in 1900 but has also had stints as a private nursing home, a WWII refuge for a Dunedin girls’ boarding school, a maternity home and hotel staff accommodation.