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Microlight pioneer’s private airfield goes on the market for sale

Tags: Commercial Hamilton

The privately-owned airfield developed by one of New Zealand’s aviation pioneers has been placed on the market for sale.

Te Kowhai airfield just north-west of Hamilton was established by microlight creator Max Clear in 1967, and steadily added to over the years until his death in 2011.

Mr Clear founded Micro Aviation NZ and went on to design and build some 354 Bantam microlight aircraft – many of which were exported around the world. The 34.8 hectare Te Kowhai property hosted New Zealand’s first aviation trade show shortly before Mr Clear’s passing.

The airfield now features six hangars – three of which are the traditional half-barn shape, and three configured into rectangular ‘storage unit’ hangar space. The three bigger hangars supply approximately 1000 square metres of fully enclosed space – encompassing a range of workshops, offices, lounges, and store rooms leased to a variety of tenants.

A commercial-sized and operated aviation fuel facility is also located on the Limmer Road property. There is a lease in place to BP for the fuel facility for an annual fee of $2000 + GST. The current lease term expires in 2018 with a further right of renewal for five years. The fuel facility is owed by BP

The Te Kowhai airfield land and buildings are being marketed for sale by Bayleys Hamilton salespeople Jason Kong and Mike Swanson through a tender process closing on May 26. Mr Swanson said the airfield site presented multiple opportunities for any new owner.

“The property can be bought and maintained in its current format – deriving income from the multiple leases in place,” Mr Swanson said.

“From a landlord/tenancy perspective, it’s safe to say that the incredibly favourable leasing terms enjoyed by the multiple aircraft owners with ‘planes stored in the Te Kowhai hangars were more a reflection of Max Clear’s passion for aviation rather than any commercial motivation.

“Max loved planes and the people who flew them. Accordingly, there’s room to review the leasing terms with a view to increasing returns over a very short timeframe. Some of the leasing rates are more than 15 years old and haven’t been altered at all in that time.”

Mr Kong said that with the right marketing approach, Te Kowhai airfield could be developed into an aero ‘hub’ – by reconfiguring the existing hangar space and usage or creating further warehousing amenities to attract not only more private aircraft owners, but also aircraft maintenance and repair businesses.

Alternatively the property could continue to be used as an airfield with surrounding land used for cropping or grazing or used potentially subdivided into Lifestyle properties.

“With the new Waikato Expressway linking Auckland to Hamilton North, the catchment area for Te Kowhai airfield users now stretches up into Auckland’s southern reaches – making it attractive to aeroplane owners currently parking their craft at Ardmore airfield for example,” he said.

In the mid-2000s Max Clear had a dream for the creation of an 80-lot airpark at the Te Kowhai property – incorporating lifestyle blocks with their own aircraft access to the grassed take-off and landing strip. The Te Kowhai Airpark proposal was designed to provide each section owner with aeroplane access to the strip via 20 metre-wide taxiways.

Mr Swanson said there was ‘a blank canvas’ potential to finally bring Max Clear’s lifestyle development to fruition – with the original civil engineer’s report available for inspection. In 2012, Waikato Aero Club looked at purchasing the aerodrome and moving its headquarters onto the site. However, the committee decided it was potentially ‘biting off more than it could chew’ and chose to remain at its Hamilton Airport base south of the city.

“It’s not every day you see an airfield come up for sale,” he said.

“Golfers are well known for buying homes overlooking the fairways and greens of their beloved courses. Motor racing enthusiasts bought into apartments overlooking the home stretch of Hampton Downs. And boat owners bought residences adjacent to the waterways of Pauanui and Whitianga on the Coromandel.

“So it’s quite easy to see aviation enthusiasts getting excited about the opportunity of building their dream home backing onto their own private airfield.”

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