A huge piece of land on the outskirts of Napier is set to be developed into a new suburb with at least 550 homes.
A 207ha section of stock-grazing farmland behind Mission Estate Winery, on the western boundary of the city, was recently sold for an undisclosed amount to a consortium of property developers.
In 2018, Napier City Council rezoned the site, allowing for the development of more than 590 sections.
Real estate company Bayleys says the new owners are under way with master planning work to build about 550 residential homes plus "upmarket lifestyle block residences".
The plans also includes a retail hub which could include a small supermarket and medical centre, environmental parkland and a reserve, and a network of walking and cycling paths.
The site includes hill ridges with sweeping views over Hawke's Bay and the land is located directly to the west of Mission Estate Winery, with access off Puketitiri Rd.
The land does not include the existing Mission Estate Winery property and associated vineyard.
Bayleys Hawke's Bay director Kerry Geange said the sheer scale of the Mission Hills greenfield development block made it one of the most important sales recorded in Hawke's Bay "for a significant number of years".
"It will be the evolution of an entirely new suburb with its own character and style," he said.
"Napier's metropolitan urban boundaries have been slowly but steadily stretching outward for decades now, often street by street in an ad-hoc fashion.
"However, as a comprehensively planned residential development, (this development) will bring an entirely new dynamic to this much needed urban growth."
He claimed it was the most significant development in Hawke's Bay since developments on the Havelock North Hills and Esk Valley north of Napier during the early 2000s.
"It will be exciting to watch Mission Hills emerge along these lines over the coming eight years."
The farmland has been sold by Western Hill Holdings Limited which is associated with Mission Estate. The sale is expected to settle within the next 12 months.
Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise said she was thrilled about new homes being announced for the region.
"It has been in the pipeline for a number of years. The prospect of 550 new houses here is fantastic," she said.
She said the council had been working with the original owners at Mission Estate prior to the most recent sale, and a lot of planning had gone into the future development including a private plan change in the council's district plan.
"A lot of work has been done around the necessary infrastructure and the water supply. We have been involved every step of the way."
Wise said it was a focus of the council to see more development built in the hills to protect the fertile soil of the Heretaunga Plains, which was vital for growing crops.
"One of our strategies for our future development is growth in the hills for that exact reason, to protect our fertile soils."
Save Our Plains spokesman Richard Gaddum, whose group is trying to prevent development on the region's best growing land, said it was good to see.
"We are delighted," he said. "Moving up into the hills behind the Mission has actually been planned for some time."
He said hilly areas had less fertile soil than the Heretaunga Plains and developments like this helped protect the plains from being developed.
Bayleys confirmed the purchaser was a consortium of North Island urban property developers consisting of Hawke's Bay business Wallace Development Company and interests of the Gillespie family, Tauranga-based Carrus Group, and Higgins Family Holdings Limited based in Palmerston North.
Jonathan Wallace, spokesman for Wallace Development Company, one of the new owners, said the first residential properties would go on sale as early as June next year, with construction likely to begin in spring 2023.
"Fundamental to our long-term vision for this site and opportunity is the drive for a quality, carefully thought-out development, embracing streetscape, landscaping, recreational amenity areas, and visual aspect," he said.
The deal was brokered by Geange and fellow Bayleys agent Rollo Vavasour.