One of the biggest vertically-integrated urban function venues and corporate retreats in Auckland — set up by the man who was instrumental in establishing Air New Zealand — has been placed on the market.
Waitakere Estate, in the western Waitakere ranges overlooking the city, is an exclusive accommodation, function, and food and beverage venue located within 28.7ha grounds that stretch along a hilltop ridgeline.
The venue, which also has its own chapel, traces its origins back to the late 1940s when the property was owned by former airline pilot Captain J. Nevill-Jackson who was commissioned by the New Zealand Government to set up what is now Air New Zealand.
Various new wings and annexes were added to the nexus of the Waitakere Estate property over the ensuing decades. The Waitakere Estate business at 573 Scenic Drive is currently run by captain Nevill-Jackson's sons Hugh and Reg; and the business is marketed under the Heritage Boutique Collection network.
Accommodation in the main hotel wing at Waitakere Estate comprises 14 standard guest bedrooms with ensuites, as well as a two-bedroom apartment, two one-bedroom apartments, and a two-bedroom guesthouse. Nightly room rack rates at the lodge range from $187.
The venue's accommodation options were substantially expanded last year with the completion of a new, multi-million dollar, three-storey eight-bedroom wing that includes a new gym, sauna, health spa and an air bridge linking to the main hotel building.
Waitakere Estate has also been granted resource consent for the addition of a second major accommodation wing featuring a further eight suites, along with a new reception area and lobby.
Waitakere Estate's guest amenities include a 20m in-ground swimming pool, spa pool, gymnasium, library, and lounge bar, while the lodge's restaurant and bar are licensed to serve up to 70 guests inside and a further 12 patrons al-fresco.
Booking data from Waitakere Estate's back-office shows that over recent years, domestic leisure travellers account for 45 per cent of visitor numbers; with domestic conferences generating about 40 per cent of business by volume, international guests making up 10 per cent of stays, and functions and weddings sustaining around five per cent of guest nights.
Waitakere Estate's freehold land, buildings and going concern business are now being marketed for sale by negotiation through Bayleys Auckland and feature in Bayleys' latest Total Property portfolio magazine.
Bayleys Auckland salespeople Carolyn Hanson and John Greenwood say the lodge and its hospitality operations are used by a broad customer base — ranging from weddings and large family gatherings through to corporate events.
"The bedroom and facility configuration of Waitakere Estate allow for the hosting of small corporate meetings and functions which traditionally require weekday stays, with the domestic leisure market booking Friday and Saturday night short-breaks. This sector includes a number of weddings throughout the year," Hanson says.
"Corporate facilities at the venue consist of three function rooms capable of seating 60, 35 and 20 guests respectively in a theatre-styled seating arrangement.
"Waitakere Estate's closeness to Auckland as a virtual suburban location, means it can be used as an 'offsite' destination reached by a minimal commute. The expanse of grounds within the native bush setting allows for a variety of in-house team-building or social activities such as clay pigeon shooting, archery, abseiling, orienteering, petanque and croquet.
"A large flat lawn area within the property is also regularly used as a helicopter landing pad for VIP clientele and those looking to arrive or depart 'in style'. There's also car parking for 48 vehicles."
Hanson says the chapel within the grounds has recently been refurbished with the addition of new bathrooms and carpets. She says the chapel adds "a wonderful element" to the hotel property and has regularly been used as the backdrop for weddings over the past 50 years.
The hotel is within the protected Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area surrounded by the mountain regional park which contains 16,000ha of protected native forests interwoven with many walking tracks leading to beaches, waterfalls and tree-lined picnic areas. The land is zoned Rural Conservation.
"With eco-tourism now a defined niche within the wider tourism sector, a new owner could reposition the business as an eco lodge to take advantage of its location within the ranges and just a short drive from the wild West Coast black sand beaches. That's a big attraction for the likes of trampers and bird-watchers," she says.
"Vistas from bedrooms and suites within Waitakere Estate look out over the natural bush of the ranges, while the communal dining and meeting room areas afford views of Auckland city right into the CBD."
The business and property includes a substantial 230sq m four-bedroom/two-bathroom owner/manager's residence with its own office. The 3300sq m of hotel buildings and amenities are accessed from a 1km sealed driveway off Scenic Drive — ensuring privacy for guests.
Greenwood says the resource consent approval for the addition of a further 12 suites alongside the recently opened second major accommodation wing gives a new owner the option to continue the business in its current format, or take it to a new level.
"Critical operations mass has been considerably improved with the new accommodation wing coming on line last year — increasing the efficiency of the existing adjoining food and beverage and function services. Any additional accommodation element will only further increase the utilisation proficiency of the kitchen, bar, and meeting room amenities," he says.
"More room numbers will have the benefit of being able to cater for larger corporate groups, or permit corporate and leisure travellers to be accommodated simultaneously. There's also scope to install premium quality internal furnishings and fittings within the rooms to offer a higher price point room rate above the existing stock."
Greenwood says further value could be attached to the business through the addition of an officially-accredited quality rating — such as Tourism New Zealand's Qualmark programme.
"Because of Waitakere Estate's location in such an environmentally-sensitive area, the granting of the building consent to further extend the new accommodation wing adds considerable value to the overall business offering," he says.
The Waitakere Estate business employs seven full-time personnel, bringing in additional part-time staff for bigger functions. The venue's restaurant operates seven days a week serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to both in-house guests and walk-in diners.
The front of house is serviced by a full commercial-grade kitchen containing gas hobs, deep fryers, a combi oven, and walk-in fridge/freezer.