A former world number one tennis player has bought a prime chunk of Russell waterfront for almost $6 million.

Austria's Thomas Muster, known as the "King of Clay" for his dominance on clay courts in the 1990s - including winning the French Open in 1995 - bought the 37ha Long Beach property from the SGA Edwards Trust for $5.65m.

The property includes two houses and three building sites.

Approval from the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) was granted in October.

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According to the OIO, Mr Muster intends to use the property for a holiday house. He has promised an extensive ecological programme to restore native vegetation on the property and to create a public walkway around the coast.

Thomas Muster with the French Open trophy in 1995. Photo/File
Thomas Muster with the French Open trophy in 1995. Photo/File

Settlement is due to take place on March 8.

Despite the conditions imposed by the OIO, some Russell residents are concerned about the sale.

Bob Drey, chairman of the Russell Protection Society, said his main concern was the Government's readiness to allow the sale of large, iconic coastal areas to foreign owners.

"Those areas are then potentially alienated from New Zealanders. Foreign owners often have a different set of values, and they may speculate or choose not to become part of the local community," he said.

The Russian owner of a multi-million-dollar home at Helena Bay, for example, only spent a few weeks a year at the property. Differing attitudes to land were illustrated by Eagle's Nest in Russell which was "surrounded by a plethora of no trespassing signs".

"There's an attitude of exclusivity. That's not the Kiwi way," Mr Drey said.

He was also worried about losing access to a series of small bays to the east of Long Beach, because at high tide they could be reached only by crossing Edwards family land which had now been sold to Mr Muster. The Edwards had long allowed the public on their property, he said.

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Mr Muster's lawyer, Sam Nelson of Queenstown firm Lane Neave, said the current property title included riparian rights to the eastern end of Long Beach, a popular off-leash dog walking area.

Thomas Muster, here trying to defend his French Open title in 1996, was known as
Thomas Muster, here trying to defend his French Open title in 1996, was known as "The King of Clay" for his dominance on clay courts in the mid-1990s. Photo/File

One of the conditions of the sale was ongoing public access to Long Beach so his firm was working with the Far North District Council and the Walking Access Commission on how to best achieve that, possibly through some form of easement.

The result would be guaranteed public access to the beach in perpetuity, even if the land was sold back to New Zealand owners in future.

Mr Nelson said there was nothing on the title that precluded anyone from using the bays further around the coast.

However, reaching the bays over the property at high tide would require people to climb what was effectively a cliff at the end of Long Beach.

"We've done full consultation with the local marae, and nothing about that was fed back to us through the process," he said.

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Mr Muster, 49, won the 1995 French Open and eight Masters 1000 series titles. He reached the world number one ranking in 1996 and retired in 1999 with a comeback attempt in 2010-2011. He shares the record with Roger Federer of winning the most single tournament titles, 12, in one season.

His tennis winnings total US$12.2m. After his tennis career he set up a brand called Toms selling clothing, wine and bottled water. He has lived variously in Austria, Monaco and Queensland. He owns a number of properties at Noosa Heads.