Russian's 'Bach' sprawls in splendour on Northland coast

By Mike Barrington

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Russian billionaire Alexander Abramov is building a South Pacific "bach" fit for a tsar on the Northland coast.

His luxury holiday home, resembling a tourist resort, has been under construction for two years at Helena Bay, 22km north-east of Hikurangi.


 


And with 85 staff from his Northland Coastal Developments (NCD) company and up to 30 subcontractors working on the site, the complex seems certain to be completed for use next summer.

The Northern Advocate accompanied Whangarei Mayor Morris Cutforth when he went to Helena Bay on Tuesday to present certificates to four apprentices who have completed carpentry trade qualifications while working on the project.

Photographing the buildings was not permitted, but NCD managing director Chris Seel treated the mayoral group to a tour of the premises.

It was more than a glimpse at how "the other half" live. The size and splendour of what Mr Seel confirmed would be a "bach" for his boss put it into a super-rich category which even big Lotto jackpot winners would be stretching to afford.

Mr Abramov, 53, topping the NBR rich list with a $7 billion fortune, paid $15.9 million for the 214ha farm where his mansion is being built at an estimated cost of $40 million-plus.

The largest building in the complex, designed by Greg Jones Architects, of Auckland, is a lodge enclosing a swimming pool about 30m by 10m, about half the size of an Olympic pool.

The two parallel sections of the U-shaped lodge flanking the pool contain dining areas, lounge rooms, apartments and an entrance to a beach.

The two sections are connected by a 50m "hallway" which can double as a ballroom and facilities in the lodge basement include a huge kitchen, wine cellar, storerooms and equipment to heat the pool.

The lodge is alongside three accommodation villas for use by Mr Abramov, his family and guests. Interior work is just beginning so there is no evidence of bathrooms with gold taps, but it is obvious the steel industry mogul's guests will be housed in comfort and style.

Outside, 6.5ha has been covered with 240,000 native plants which will soon surround the home in lush vegetation. When construction is finished, large pohutukawa and other foliage will be planted in front of the villas and little of the complex will be visible from the sea.

On one side of the beach a 230m walkway leads around the rocky shore to a pontoon mooring which is about 2m deep at low tide.

The former farmhouse has been shifted from the beachfront to a nearby valley containing buried storage tanks for bore water, a sewage treatment system and an air conditioning chiller.

Mr Seel said NCD sourced materials from Whangarei and hired many staff from local iwi, including two fulltime observers who monitor construction because the site is in a culturally sensitive area.

Mr Cutforth called the development, which uses local materials and staff, a "significant project for our region".

"This is unique. Not many billionaires come to New Zealand and start a project like this," the Mayor said.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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