An entrepreneur once afraid of heights wants to build a 70-metre-high wooden bungy jumping platform - and he needs $20 million to do it.

John Heskett is looking for investors for his Waitomo Sky Garden project, set to be the first attraction of its kind in the world.

The platform, which would be built on land owned by Nick Andreef and Alan Juno in the King Country tourism hub, is to feature New Zealand's highest water-touch bungy, a cafe and the highest dry slide in history.

Underneath there is another cafe planned, a reinstated wetland themed garden with boardwalk, hot springs and another viewing platform on the roof of a two-storey building.


Heskett, who was afraid of heights until he became a bungy instructor with AJ Hackett in Queenstown, came up with the concept two years ago and sold his scaffolding businesses to begin work on the project.

"I went doorknocking around Hamilton and no one wanted to do it. Everyone was like 'What the hell are you trying to build?'.

"It started off as a bungy jump and it's turned into the Waitomo Sky Garden. We're going to create something that literally the world hasn't seen."

John Heskett is seeking investors for his $20 million Waitomo Sky Garden project. Photo / Supplied
John Heskett is seeking investors for his $20 million Waitomo Sky Garden project. Photo / Supplied

Eventually he knocked on the door of Form Building and Developments, which has led the project so far, with BCD Group undertaking engineering and resource consent planning, and Ignite architects doing the design work.

"All these companies have gone over the top to help me, especially Form."

Heskett negotiated a 25-year lease with Andreef but reaction at a public meeting in Waitomo was divided with some residents against the project, calling it "ugly" and unsuitable for the area.

The Hamilton man has spent $300,000 getting the sky garden to resource consent stage and is currently awaiting the outcome of that process. So far nobody has objected officially.

A price indication came back at $17.2m but Heskett said he expected that to go up to $20m.

Now the former St Paul's Collegiate School student, who has a Diploma in Tourism Management and a Bachelor of Applied Management, is calling for investors.

"I haven't got any investors just yet. I'm hoping it will get international attention."

Heskett said the project grew out of his passion for bungy jumping.

"I was in the scaffolding game and lifting up metal wasn't for me. You don't see many smiles on people's faces on building sites. I just wanted to create something cool.

"I love bungy jumping so much and just to get other people to experience that, I thought it'd be pretty cool."

And the 26-year-old has the backing of Waitomo mayor Brian Hanna, who is working with the owners of the Waitomo Golf Club to get a $40m hotel built on the State Highway 3 venue to make Waitomo a one-stop-shop tourist destination.

Hanna called the Sky Garden a "huge opportunity" for Waitomo.

"One thing we need at Waitomo is more above ground stuff. Obviously there's a lot of caves and below ground stuff. I think this is just another attraction that will keep people here for longer.

"From an economic development perspective it'd be pretty significant development for us."

Tourists visit the famous Waitomo glow-worm caves. Photo / Supplied
Tourists visit the famous Waitomo glow-worm caves. Photo / Supplied

He acknowledged the project required major investment but said Heskett was committed to it and Waitomo District Council had helped by contributing to the cost of a feasibility study.

Hanna said the Sky Garden would go hand-in-hand with a $30m-$40m hotel that was planned for land at the Waitomo Golf Club, about 10 minutes drive from the village on SH3.

He said a committee formed to find a developer to build the 3.5 to 4.5 star hotel with up to 120 beds, wanted to capitalise on tourists who visit the caves in droves but who don't stay overnight.

"We're trying to attract other tourism ventures to make the most of those numbers that are being attracted by the world famous Waitomo Caves. That would be the game changer for us.

"It's two hours from Auckland, a great weekend escape. We want to break the traditional tourism traffic and have people spending more time here."

The hotel was currently going through a "registration of interest phase."

There is already a hotel, the Waitomo Caves Hotel built in 1908 and added onto in 1928, located in the village.