New Zealand's most expensive house sold this year went to a businessman who owns a number of other Auckland properties valued at more than $50 million, records show.
CoreLogic said this month that the top-priced residential sale of 2017 was 19 O'Neills Ave, a waterfront mansion in Takapuna, Auckland, which went for $28,888,000 during the winter.
Although the seller was revealed to have been Mark Stewart, a businessman with strong Christchurch links, little was known about the buyer. He planned to move into the Tuscan-style home on its section of nearly half a hectare with his family, the Herald reported this month.
State-owned enterprise Quotable Value records show that the buyer was Lichun Gao. A check on other titles shows he has been active since 2015, buying a number of properties across the city, valued collectively at more than $56m. Most of his properties are on the North Shore and some have big development potential.
Companies Office records show Gao is the sole director and shareholder of New Zealand-registered company Far East NZ Investment and gives his address as 17 O'Neills Ave, Takapuna. The company was incorporated in the last year and Xin Gao's name also appears on the records.
Sources said Gao is a permanent resident, who has friends in his new Takapuna neighbourhood and will live in his new house with his family. He is said to be a wealthy businessman with big plans for his Auckland portfolio.
Gao is now having extensive work done on his 19 O'Neills Ave property, which is flanked by huge pohutakawa trees and protected by an ornate iron gate-way. One of the workers said Gao was friends with the neighbours at 17 O'Neills Ave and it was while he was there that he spotted the house he later bought for $28.8m.
After the sale was reported, Premium Real Estate Group chief executive John Hastings said the sales people were Premium's Athena Wang and Jim Mays.
Via that agency, the Herald sought comment from Gao who did not respond.
Far East is listed in one business directory as a milk products manufacturing business.
Titles which QV lists as those Gao owns are:
• 19 O'Neills Ave: a residential dwelling on a 4396sq m site, three separate titles of 19, 21 and 23 O'Neills Ave. Two homes were built there by Sky TV founder Craig Heatley who had a helipad on the property. Gao bought it in July, QV records showed.
• 84 Trig Rd, Whenuapai: Auckland Council says is valued at $9.8m. A 4.04ha lifestyle property which is now bare land with subdivision potential, sold to Gao last year;
• 62 Paritai Dr, Orakei: a residential dwelling built between 1914 and 1929 on a 1173sq m site. This is in one of Auckland's best streets, home to the $39m property which set the national record in 2013 as New Zealand's most expensive residential property, sold by agent Graham Wall. Auckland Council valued this place at $7.4m. QV records the place as being sold to Gao last April.
• 11 Spedding Rd, Whenuapai: a 4.9ha lifestyle property now bare land but with subdivision potential, sold to Gao last year. Auckland Council has this property valued at $7,170,000.
• 52 Dairy Stream Rd, Dairy Flat: a 3.2ha site listed as a lifestyle property, being bare land with subdivision potential which Gao bought in April, 2015.
But all these titles are a far cry from New Zealand's most expensive house on Paritai Dr overlooking the waterfront. Businessman Deyi Shi bought that from interests associated with ex-Hanover Finance director Mark Hotchin for $39m in 2013. The latest valuation puts that property at $46m.
At Glenorchy, $33m is being sought for a large mountain lodge-style holiday home 40 minutes from Queenstown. That house overlooks Lake Wakatipu and is being marketed by Arrowtown's Luxury Real Estate New Zealand.