The country's most expensive state house is being sold to local iwi, almost three years after a tenant was turfed out for benefit fraud.
Ngati Whatua Whai Rawa - the iwi's commercial arm - is buying more than $9 million of state housing including 38 Takitimu St, in the Auckland suburb of Orakei, which has a rateable valuation of $2.35 million. Chief executive Rob Hutchison said it was buying seven Orakei state properties.
In 2012, the Herald reported the tenant at the Takitimu St house, Michelle Hawke, had been convicted of benefit fraud and evicted from the property.
She had been living in what was then a $1.3 million home for 12 years with family members and wrongly received more than $80,000.
Herald inquiries found she was convicted on five fraud-related charges brought against her by Work and Income New Zealand.
Housing NZ confirmed Hawke's 1940s, three-bedroom weatherboard home with a huge 1535sq m section was its most expensive property.
But Mr Hutchison said yesterday the run-down state house with its panoramic views was valued at only $50,000, once land value was taken out of the equation.
The state house purchases were due to be settled later this year, but because they were commercial he could not disclose how much the tribe would pay for the properties near Bastion Pt.
"Buying land close to Orakei is important to Ngati Whatua Orakei. Our focus is securing land within the tribal boundaries and then using it in the best way to ensure sustainable benefit for the hapu," he said.
The iwi would convert three freehold titles at 38 Takitimu St, 29 Te Arawa St and 11 Ngaio St into leasehold titles and advertise them for sale.
Leases of 125 years, 150 years or 175 years could be bought, he said.
But ground rent review issues would be avoided because purchases of the leasehold interests in those three properties would be sold with prepaid ground rents.
Mr Hutchison said such arrangements were relatively rare on suburban residential properties but common overseas.
"There will be no rent reviews throughout the term and the ground leases are prepaid, which we believe removes uncertainly and will make budgeting easier. After 175 years the land can come back to Ngati Whatua Orakei."
Properties such as the Takitimu St one might be bought by developers who could seek to build four residences where one now stood, he said. The properties would be marketed by Barfoot & Thompson.
Housing NZ asset development manager Leonie Freeman said the deal was divestment of high-value properties on the books.
Auckland home prices in land of their own
Auckland house prices are out on their own in New Zealand's property market, latest figures show. Real Estate Institute data showed Auckland prices were up 14 per cent in the year to February from $592,000 to $675,000.
Chief executive Colleen Milne said Auckland was the only area to see a price rise.
"The data shows that there has been no increase in the median price for New Zealand, excluding Auckland, between February last year and February just gone. This underlines again the view that there are two distinct real estate markets in New Zealand - Auckland and the rest of the country."
Trade Me Property showed Auckland's February average asking price reached a new high of $710,250, up almost $90,000 annually or 14.5 per cent.
Nigel Jeffries, Trade Me Property head, said small Auckland places were very popular.
"A small home in Auckland now has an average asking price of $563,550, a new record high and an increase of $82,600 over the past 12 months. In Auckland, the average asking for a large home is now $1,084,500, up 8.7 per cent year-on-year."
Apartment price expectations have also hit a new record high of $462,100, up 10 per cent compared with February last year.
REINZ national data showed $1 million-plus house sales up from 415 last February to 577 sales last month.
Harcourts' data also out yesterday showed Auckland and Northland sale prices up 20 per cent annually, from $639,313 to $768,128. Hayden Duncan, Harcourts' chief executive, said high prices were not deterring buyers.