Half of area's buildings restored and companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit has more on agenda next year.

The chance to turn a collection of neglected, dangerous, disused waterfront buildings into one of Auckland's hippest dining, retail, fashion and commercial precincts has delighted Britomart's Peter Cooper.

"If I have to think of a highlight, it's essentially being able to convert heritage structures into living, working buildings rather than museum monuments so people can feel them and feel the fabric of an older building performing a functional life today," Cooper said from his Bay of Islands house at The Landing.

"We're a bit short on a history or heritage in the youngest country in the world and there's been a lot of wholesale destruction."

However, Cooper and Company, of which Cooper is executive chairman, is only halfway through the revitalisation of an area once inhabited by the homeless and seagulls.


"Of the 17 buildings, we've fully restored just over half," said the businessman, who is of Te Aupouri, Ngati Kuri and Te Rarawa descent, and has been made a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to urban redevelopment.

"We're close to starting on Australis and Nathan, the two most significant buildings on [Takutai] Square.

"They're on the agenda for this [coming] year," he said of upper-level office conversions, ground-floor shops and basement food and beverage operations.

"We're also working on two of the buildings beside Seafarers, Quay and Altrans, and we could start work in April. We're hoping to have a fresh food market in the ground and offices above," Cooper said, paying special tribute to chief executive Matthew Cockram, leasing and sales director Jeremy Priddy and marketing director Sarah Hull.

After a decade, Britomart now has 140 tenants, commercial, retail and food and beverage tenants, and buildings valued at $500 million-plus, but Cooper said it was not his most profitable venture.

"At one stage, we estimated $350 million, but well in excess of that has been spent. It's probably come out better than we hoped for. It's more active. We thought we would struggle harder to fill it," he said. "We never thought we would have it 100 per cent occupied."

High St retailers have mourned the stampede to Britomart but Cooper said he did not target them.

"Every area is competitive. You don't go after another district. You're basically looking for tenants and you have a particular category in mind which was high-end New Zealand fashions and they came from everywhere, not just High St," he said.

"Where they come from is secondary to who they are. People like World went from more of a back street presence to a front of street presence."

Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
* Alison Paterson DNZM
* Richard Ballantyne CNZM
* Alastair Carruthers CNZM
* Peter Cooper CNZM
* Peter Townsend CNZM
* Earl Hagaman CNZM
* Bob Buckle ONZM
* Kaye Crosby and Bernie Crosby ONZM