A controversial $200 million plan to build the first 115 residential units above and around the North Shore's Milford Shopping Centre has been delayed and depositers repaid their money.

Mark Gunton's privately-owned New Zealand Retail Property Group says it repaid depositers as it delayed one of Auckland's most upmarket apartment schemes where a penthouse was pre-sold for $6m,.

The current construction and financial environment and the impact of the development on retailers within the mall as the Christmas season begins were cited as reasons for the delay. No start date has been announced.

The project was strongly opposed by Milford residents who were concerned about tall apartment blocks in the predominately low-rise suburb. They fought against it in the Environment Court and won some concessions against initial plans for a 16-level project.

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Imported Italian kitchens, a 170sq m heated outdoor pool and podium deck spreading across a third of a hectare were features of the apartments. Sara Johnson, NZRPG marketing and communications general manager, said last year that prices started from $1.7m for a 94sq m unit on ground level with a 35sq m deck. Prices were to rise the higher up the building, she said.

Johnson said last year that construction would start in February this year and the first residents would move in around mid-2019. An apartment display suite opened in the ex-ASB bank retail outlet in the mall, with a full-sized mock-up bedroom, kitchen, living area and bathroom.

Brett Russell's Dominion Constructors won the contract for the enabling works beside the mall as well as the main contract to build the Milford which was to be just under 10 levels tall.

Gunton planned the biggest reverse takeover on the NZX to fund his activities. But in July, his business - valued at around $575m - cancelled its play on listed Bethunes Investments, saying it would examine other options after the September election.

NZRPG founded the huge Westgate retail centre on Auckland's northwestern fringe. It has created a new Auckland town centre there and is planning a new mall and apartment blocks at Birkenhead's Highbury.

An NZRPG executive said this morning that the timing was wrong for Milford and that it had been postponed.

"It's a case of looking at conditions and timing. The timing has not worked out."

Asked how much of an issue funding was, he said most projects were finding it difficult to secure that in the current market conditions.

Many Auckland apartment schemes have hit trouble lately. Land for the Saba apartments on Fanshawe St just last month went to mortgagee auction when funder New Zealand Mortgages and Securities called in the loan.