Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Fiji property past doesn't worry Vanubaka men

An artist's impression of the $140m Fijian project called Vunabaka.
An artist's impression of the $140m Fijian project called Vunabaka.

A New Zealand businessman in a group selling 72 residential sites on a Fiji island says he's well aware of trouble his fellow countrymen have suffered in that country.

Michael Lucas, a co-owner of the new Vunabaka resort, said risk had been removed from the new scheme on a 40ha site on Malolo Island, 35 minutes by boat from Nadi.

Trouble arose last decade with the development of Neville Mahon's Fiji Beach Resort & Spa and Bridgecorp's Momi Bay but Lucas said Vunabaka was totally different from these projects.

"That was more to do with the finance companies than Fiji itself," Lucas said.

A receivership report on Mahon's Fiji Beach Resort & Spa in 2009 said 241 investors were owed $1.5 million. Strategic Finance, which helped fund this resort, was also owed millions.

Collapsed financier Bridgecorp was behind Momi Bay. The financier was developing it when it failed in July 2007 owing $459 million to its investors.

Lucas said Vunabaka was totally different.

"We've put a lot of effort into removing risk: the previous owners spent seven years in preliminarily assessments and market feasibility studies but didn't go ahead for personal reasons. We will succeed. It started off as a hobby. It's not a development we're doing to feed the family but to create something we're proud of. The project itself was through break-even in stage one - the total cost of developing stage one are covered by the pre-sales," Lucas said.

Anthony Marcotti who lives near San Diego was the American investor who Lucas said had joined him along with the former co-owner of Roundhill ski field near Tekapo, Christian Burtscher, the ex-chief executive of non-profit SurfAid and WHK founder Keith Gosling.

A statement from the developers issued this week revealed sales to high-profile people.

"Among the Kiwis to have already purchased are Henry van Asch, a pioneer in bungy jumping who now runs a South Island vineyard, Howard Bretherton, former joint managing director of Michael Hill International and Will Rouse, the managing director and CEO of Simcro," it said.

Lucas said properties had so far have sold through word of mouth to people in New Zealand, Australia, USA, South Africa and Central America.

See the original Vanubaka press release here:

- NZ Herald

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