A stretch of coastal Great Barrier Island farmland that also hosts one of the country's largest marine graveyards is being sold by the family that's called it home for close to a century.

The 195 hectares of land, with 4km of island coastline, includes the final resting place of a number of victims from the third-largest marine disaster in New Zealand waters - the SS Wairarapa, which was shipwrecked off Miners Head in 1894.

Scott Mabey grew up on the property, which his great-grandfather William Mabey bought from the original settlers in 1918.

He held many good memories of the property at 760 Mabey Rd, which has been used as both a dairy and dry-stock farm, and its native surrounds.


"You'd never sit still you know? You'd spend most of your time on the water, or under the water, or hunting.

"It was paradise. If you like shops and cafes it probably wasn't the place for you, but if you are into outdoors and activities it was heaven."

Mabey said the graveyard on a northern section of the main beach, and the nearby underwater wreckage of the SS Wairarapa at the base of the cliffs at Miners Head, was a great point of intrigue for a young lad growing up on the island.

"We were always a bit intrigued by it, I guess I still am. I've dived on that wreck and still go past it quite regularly - it's quite surreal to think of the carnage onboard all those years ago."

A total of 121 of the 235 onboard the steamship died in the waters off the island after it struck the reef shortly after midnight on October 29, 1894.

Many of those who survived the tragedy had to swim or be hauled to shore and spent more than 30 hours huddled on the rocks before they were rescued by local Maori.

A subsequent investigation into the tragedy deemed the captain was at fault for sailing at high speeds, taking the wrong course and not making allowances for the currents.

According to the Department of Conservation's heritage assessment of the site, approximately 60 unidentified or unrecognisable bodies were buried at one of two sites on the island - including the one at the Mabeys' property.

Bayleys Real Estate agent John Greenwood said the burial site was covenanted, meaning it couldn't be built upon or developed, and there were restrictions as to how close to it you could build.

He said the remaining property, which has an asking price of $5.9 million, was characteristic of New Zealand beauty; with beaches, pohutukawa, coastal bush and deep blue water surrounds. "There are no buildings, it's just virgin farmland, over 80 per cent of it is grass."

He said wide-scale development was unlikely, as the land was quite steep, but it could have potential as an eco-retreat.

"Its uniqueness is that it will more likely remain as it is forever."

Mabey, who lived with his family on the island and ran the farming operations on their remaining property, hoped the future buyer would keep its natural beauty largely intact.

"I guess in reality they'll probably build themselves a nice dwelling, but it would be nice to see it sort of stay in its natural state.

"I hope they enjoy it as much as we have."

760 Mabey Rd

• 195 hectares of coastal NZ farm

• Adjacent to Department of Conservation Reserve

• Includes two white sandy beaches

• Final resting place of a number of the victims of the 1894 shipwreck of the SS Wairarapa

• Asking price: $5.9m