Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Waiheke: Island of dreams

Waiheke Island's most expensive property, Cowes Bay Estate. Photo / Supplied
Waiheke Island's most expensive property, Cowes Bay Estate. Photo / Supplied

More than 50 properties valued at $1m or more are for sale on Waiheke as the islanders cash in on their new international reputation as home to the rich, famous and reclusive.

Overseas investors are being targeted to buy some of the nearly $200 million worth of homes that are up for sale on Waiheke Island. They range from a two-bedroom apartment overlooking Oneroa Beach, valued at $1.45m, to a 15-bedroom mansion complete with vineyard.

The Lonely Planet travel guide says: "Once they could hardly give land away here; nowadays multimillionaires rub shoulders with the old-time hippies and bohemian artists who gave the island its green repute."

And islanders are aiming to capitalise on those plaudits. The most expensive home, Cowes Bay Estate, has been on sale for an asking price of $33m for seven years. Another is on sale for $25m.

One estate agency said $1m-plus properties now made up 20 per cent of their sales.

Kim Howard from Waiheke Real Estate, said they listed about 20 million-plus properties in the first three months of the year alone. They had buyers from Christchurch to the United Kingdom. Another $25m property, Te Rere Cove Estate which comes with a wine cellar, indoor pool with its own theatre and vineyard, is up for sale in Church Bay, Waiheke Island.

With dozens of multimillion- dollar properties on the market, estate agents are increasingly looking to offshore buyers. Bayleys' agent Clive Lonergan said their branch had more than 10 properties in the $3m-plus bracket.

"Most of our buyers are from New Zealand but there are more coming from overseas, attracted by the New Zealand lifestyle."

Increasing numbers of sales require approval from the Overseas Investment Office - six in recent years. As well as private homes, commercial properties are being bought up by overseas investors.

American billionaire Bill Foley bought a leasehold interest in 15ha of wine growing land on Waiheke Island in 2009 when he bought the assets of the New Zealand Wine Fund.

An American firm headed by Samuel Zell bought the Waiheke Retirement Village in 2009.

In November last year, British man Neil Hardy Greer bought the Waiheke Island Aerodrome, the only airfield on the island, for $2.64m. The 8.9ha property at 171 Carsons Rd is used for commercial, emergency and tourism purposes.

The application satisfied the OIO's national interest test because the new owner's plans include further development and creation or retention of jobs, according to a summary released by the office.

Real estate agents now give advice on getting through the OIO approval process.

- Herald on Sunday

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