Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Mansion receives its finishing touches

This picture, taken last year, shows Alexander Abramov's  mansion taking shape at  Helena Bay. 
Photo / Greg Bowker
This picture, taken last year, shows Alexander Abramov's mansion taking shape at Helena Bay. Photo / Greg Bowker

More than 100 trade specialists are finishing New Zealand's most expensive new house, preparing for the arrival of owner and billionaire Russian steel magnate Alexander Abramov this year.

Chris Seel, managing director of Northland Coastal Developments which is in charge of the $40 million-plus Helena Bay project, south of the Bay of Islands, said people were mainly inside on the job for one of Russia's richest men.

In the middle of winter, the site now has one of its biggest crews since work started about two years ago and progress was going according to schedule, he said.

"It's nearly finished. It's looking pretty good - there's a lot of detail. It's really ramped right up towards the finishing. It's amazing, in the early hundreds," Mr Seel said of the workforce.

Four houses have risen on the waterfront site about 40 minutes from Whangarei, down a long winding driveway off the back road to Russell.

Four houses are now up: one main U-shaped grand mansion, with three beachfront villas for guests and staff. The houses were designed by Greg Jones of Auckland-based Jones Architects.

Mr Seel said work was well advanced.

"Plastering, painting, electrical fittings, finishing on the floors, everything that attaches to the wall, lots of tiling, all the control systems, electrics, all the landscaping. We have our own in-house landscape designer," he said.

The huge outdoor pool, set in the middle of the sheltered courtyard, is yet to be filled.

"Water is not in yet because there's no pool fencing but it's in the manufacturing," he said. Mr Abramov is due to visit as the weather heats up and work ends.

"They'll be back again later this year, before Christmas," Mr Seel said.

The buying of coastal land by foreigners is strongly opposed by many in New Zealand, particularly farm land. The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa says selling waterfront rural land to people like Mr Abramov is not in the country's interests.

The Department of Conservation opposed a resource consent application to build a concrete path across coastal rocks and a pontoon.

Progress report

• $15.9m land purchase price.
• Mansion, 3 villas up on 214ha farm.
• Property about 40km north of Whangarei.
• Interior finishing under way.
• 150,000 native trees planted.
• Thousands of possums culled.
• Invasive tobacco weed and woolly nightshade infestations reduced.
• Finishing trades now working inside.

- NZ Herald

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