Four years of planning, appeals, hearings and zone changes have come to fruition for Millbrook Resort. Philip Chandler looks at how the golf course resort is expanding westwards into a neighbouring farm.
Millbrook development boss Ben O’Malley quips that golfers at its newest course will be busier admiring the view than their shots.
Work’s just started on another nine holes at the world-class, 27-hole Arrowtown golf resort – appropriately, 25 years after it opened – as part of a newly-consented, $50 million development.
But they’re not any nine holes.
On the 67-hectare former Dalgleish Farm, which Millbrook bought four years ago, these will be the resort’s most spectacular.
They’ll range between wetland-surrounded lowlands through ice-sculpted valleys and gullies to a plateau about 485 metres above sea level.
O’Malley suggests the course will probably include the highest holes on any New Zealand commercial course.
The golf experience will also differ from the rest of Millbrook, including the adjoining Coronet Nine, because about 20ha will be grazed by sheep.
Interestingly, the other local course under construction, a nine-holer at The Hills, nearby, is also rural in nature.
What’s also special about Millbrook’s extra nine is that once they’re in play – probably in 2021 – the resort will be the first in NZ to boast two 18-hole courses.
Firstly, this will provide an excuse for visiting golfers to stay longer.
But it could also help NZ Open organisers, whose annual tournament runs at Millbrook and The Hills, realise their dream of running a three-course event.
O’Malley, who’s “ecstatic” work’s underway, says the Dalgleish Farm purchase was timely as it was the last decent-sized contiguous land it could acquire.
Alongside the new holes, Millbrook’s also setting aside 42 house lots – 24 on the upper plateau and 18 lower down – ranging from about 750 to 3000 square metres.
O’Malley says they’re mostly likely to sell for $1m-plus, and doubtless end up accommodating more multi-million dollar homes.
Rather than creating denser development, Millbrook’s retaining its 450-home limit but now spreading it out more, he explains.
The resort’s let three contracts at this stage – the main earthworks contract to Ashburton’s Grant Hood Contracting and golf course construction and irrigation installation contracts to turf specialist TIC Golf Projects.
That firm also developed the Coronet Nine course which opened in 2010.
Similarly Coronet Nine’s designers, ex-golf pro, Arrowtowner Greg Turner, and his Scotland-based associate, Scott Macpherson, were retained to design the ‘Dalgleish Nine’, or whatever it’s finally called.
That’s to ensure consistency of design, O’Malley says.
Local landscape architecture firm Baxter Design Group is also lending its expertise again.
In the initial earthworks phase, half a million cubic metres of material will be moved within the site.
Some major water works are also in the pipeline.
Work’s almost finished on moving the Arrow irrigation pipe to make way for the development.
Work’s also started on a 30 million-litre water storage lake.
O’Malley explains this has come about because Otago Regional Council is going through a plan change which would set a minimum flow for the Arrow River.
And that river supplies Millbrook’s golf irrigation water, via the Arrow pipeline.
A minimum flow could jeopardise golf course operations, as its sand-based tees and greens require daily watering to meet international PGA specs, O’Malley says.
In other water works, parts of Mill Creek will be widened to enhance wetlands for birdlife and wildlife.
The creek was also widened through the Coronet Nine course when it was being constructed.
Millbrook’s also supporting an Otago Regional Council initiative, alongside the Friends of Lake Hayes Society, to discharge off-peak water from the Arrow River irrigation race to Mill Stream, which runs through Millbrook into Lake Hayes.
“They believe this will help enhance the water quality of Lake Hayes, and we have the means to provide them the link,” O’Malley says.