A prison camp survivor and late-blooming property magnate has been honoured by the Property Council, which has awarded him a members' laureate for significant contributions to the industry.
Wellington developer Mark Dunajtschik's lifetime achievements were honoured by the council tonight.
Leonie Freeman, council chief executive, said the humble man who came to New Zealand as a toolmaker in 1958 was a truly deserving recipient of the award because he was a property entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Dunajtschik had suffered an extraordinary plight when he was imprisoned by Yugoslav forces in a concentration camp in Knicanin before eventually escaping with his mother to Germany, a statement said.
There he trained as a toolmaker, before spending five years travelling the world and deciding to make New Zealand his home.
Soon after arriving in this country, he established Precision Grinders, running the business for 25 years.
But then his career took a swerve into property.
The Herald has reported how Dunajtschik was among this country's most successful property developers and investors, although he only started in the industry as a "hobby" at the age of 57 and has no staff.
Former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman described Dunajtschik's commitment as "extraordinary" and "unparalleled".
The entrepreneur's financial help enabled Wellington helicopter pilot the late Peter Button to set up an air rescue service, now called the Life Flight Trust, which has been credited with saving 22,000 lives.
In July, the Herald reported on progress since Dunajtschik announced his mammoth donation of $50 million to build and donate a purpose-built children's hospital for people in the greater Wellington area.
The Property Council tonight said his legacy included Wellington's Environment House, the James Smith Building, Harcourts Building, HSBC Tower, Asteron Centre and more recently the Children's Hospital for Capital & Coast District Health Board.
"I have always said that those people that are born with a healthy body and mind can look after themselves and those unfortunate to be born with, or suffering ill health, need our help," Dunajtschik said when he announced his $50m gift.
The Property Council said: "Mark and his partner Dorothy have built an enduring legacy of Wellington commercial properties throughout his career."
When he retired as a toolmaker in 1987, Dunajtschik took up property investment and development as a hobby, "quickly accumulating and adding value to commercial and residential property around central Wellington, developing his unique, hands-on formula for success", the council said.
It said he was known for "getting involved personally in everything from electrical, plumbing and carpentry work, to ensuring lifts and doors are working
and negotiating with tenants and agents.
"He is among New Zealand's most successful property developers and investors, although he only started in the industry as a hobby at the age of 57," it noted.
The council also announced other awards tonight.
•New purpose-built Auckland headquarters for Waste Management NZ at 318 East Tamaki Rd won the Rider Levett Bucknall supreme award, Resene green building award and the CBRE industrial property award.
The building is owned by Stride Property, was designed by Jasmax and Eclipse Architecture, and was praised for being a world-class project due to its sustainability, innovation, design and the close collaboration between the landlord and tenant.
•The new Hastings police station won the Warren and Mahoney civic and arts award for creating "a modern and welcoming environment that enables the police to work more efficiently and collaboratively with the public".
•Wellington's Defence House on Precinct Properties' Bowen Campus won the RCP commercial office award for alterations and extensions. The 23,200sq m block was refurbished and earthquake strengthened to 100 per cent of Building Code.
•Waikato University's Tauranga Campus project won the Greenstone Group education award as an exemplary first stage of a master-planned precinct.
•Te Omanga Hospice in the Hutt Valley, Christchurch's refurbished town hall, its Riverside Market, apartments at 132 Halsey St in the Wynyard Quarter, Queen St's Four Points by Sheraton and Massey housing project Kōwhai Ridge also won awards.