Wonder mansions transform Waiheke (+ photos)

By Michael Dickison

This $22 million residential project in Church Bay Road has just been completed. Photo / Dean Purcell
This $22 million residential project in Church Bay Road has just been completed. Photo / Dean Purcell

The rush is on to buy up multimillion-dollar houses on Waiheke Island - sales in the past three months have reportedly been the best in a decade.

Stunning properties are being built and bought by Auckland businesspeople to join household names such as Graeme Hart, Sir Graham Henry and John Hawkesby in the glamorous coastal fringes of the island.

Most of the houses have pools looking out on the water; many have private heliports.

A few of the properties include private fishing coves, while others span entire bays.

"Anywhere in the Western world where you've got a small island close to the big city, it becomes a preserve for the very rich people," said Bayleys senior consultant Barry Curle.

Ferries approaching from Auckland encounter several wide glass frontages of the modern houses dotting the tops of ridges and on beachfronts, all built within the past few years.

Among them is Fossil Cove - available for rent for $3500 a night.

There is a minimum stay of one week, which comes to $24,500 for seven nights.

Owner David Nicoll said the high-flyers who booked the property mostly came from overseas and used pseudonyms.

The house features four bedrooms with panoramic views. At night, the lights of the city flicker in the distance.

Mr Nicoll said many people were seeking a rural experience, which was possible on Waiheke while being only a short ferry ride away from the biggest city in the country.

The community around Church Bay - which includes New Zealand's richest man, Mr Hart, among its property owners - was growing, he said.

"Many people have looked around the world for a place to build a house, and they've chosen to come here."

On the northern side of the island, a three-level house built into a cliff face is on sale for $5.5 million.

Its owner is Chris Canning, who runs the Hay Paddock vineyard on the island.

The house has a heated pool, a waterfall and two separate suites that can be rented out.

Other coastal-property owners are mostly developers, company directors and business operators.

QV valuations have been in many cases about half the market price for the top-end properties - which range up to $33 million - but they are still listed in the millions.

Mr Curle, who has 16 years of experience in the Waiheke real estate market, said the island had come a long way since being considered a "hippie backwater" little more than a decade ago.

There had been more sales of million-dollar properties in the past three months than in the previous two years combined - and it was the best quarter since 2002, he said.

"We're seeing real interest, but there's no explanation. We think it's something in the air or in the water.

"The reality is we've got buyers now."

Wealthy professionals and businesspeople were the biggest growth area, Mr Curle said.

The attractions would never change - the island was close to the city, and it didn't have clogged motorways.

"The ferries are like being in the pub every night on the way home.

"You're winding down and it's chat, chat, chat.

"Even people with money, they're escaping Auckland."

- NZ Herald

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