Four New Zealand businessmen have joined Americans to develop Vunabaka, a new $140 million Fiji resort, where the first stage of construction is nearly finished.

They are Michael Lucas, former managing director of market research company TNS Conversa, Christian Burtscher, former co-owner of Roundhill ski field at the head of Lake Tekapo, Andrew Griffiths, ex-chief executive of the non-profit SurfAid programme and Keith Gosling, founder of Auckland accounting firm Gosling Chapman, now WHK.

Work began a year ago on the 40ha property on a 99-year lease on Malolo Island, 35 minutes by boat or 10 minutes by helicopter from Nadi.

Lucas said work began only after several years of feasibility assessments, planning and design.

Advertisement

Stage one, a marina, coastal reclamation, beach beautification and power, water and gas reticulation, is due to finish by November.

About 65 per cent of the first residential sites have been pre-sold.

Lucas said prices in the remaining marina, ocean front and beach lots ranged from US$600,000 ($702,495) to US$1.5 million plus tax.

"Construction has begun on the first villas and all of stage one will have title in November, when construction of the Island Grace hotel will also begin," Lucas said.

The project had been financed through owner equity and a development loan secured against pre-sales through the Fiji Development Bank.

"The local community receives 10 per cent of all land sales and has a 21 per cent stake in the ongoing entity that will run the development. The site is on a 99-year lease from the local landholders."

New Zealand architect Richard Priest is also working on the project.