One of the biggest vertically-integrated urban function venues and corporate retreats in Auckland – set up by the man who established Air New Zealand - has been placed on the market for sale.
Waitakere Estate in the western Waitakere ranges overlooking the city is an exclusive accommodation, function, and food and beverage venue based in some 28.7 hectares grounds stretching along a hilltop ridgeline – complete with its own chapel.
The venue was originally developed in the late 1940s by former airline pilot captain J Nevill-Jackson who had previously been commissioned by the New Zealand Government to set up what went onto become the entity which is now Air New Zealand.
Various news wings and annexes were added to the nexus of the Waitakere Estate property over the ensuing decades. The Waitakere Estate business at 573 Scenic Drive is currently run by captain Nevill-Jackson’s sons Hugh and Reg, and the business is marketed under the Heritage Boutique Collection network.
Accommodation in the main hotel wing at Waitakere Estate features 14 standard guest bedrooms with en-suites, as well as a two-bedroom apartment, two one-bedroom apartments, and a two-bedroom guesthouse.
The venue’s accommodation options were substantially expanded last year with the completion of a new multi-million dollar three-storey eight-bedroom wing which includes a new gym, sauna, health spa and an air bridge linking to the main hotel building..
Waitakere Estate had also been granted resource consent for the addition of a second major accommodation wing featuring a further eight suites, along with a new reception area and lobby.
Nightly room rack rates at the lodge range from $187. Waitakere Estate’s guest amenities include a 20-metre in-ground swimming pool, spa pool, gymnasium, library, and lounge bar, while the lodge’s restaurant and bar are licensed to serve up to 70 guests inside and a further 12 patrons al-fresco.
Booking data from Waitakere Estate’s back-office shows that over recent years, domestic leisure travellers account for 45 percent of visitor numbers, with domestic conferences generating some 40 percent of business by volume, international guests making up 10 percent of stays, and functions and weddings sustaining some five percent of guest nights.
Waitakere Estate’s freehold land, buildings and going concern business are now being marketed for sale by negotiation through Bayleys Auckland. Salespeople Carolyn Hanson and John Greenwood said the lodge and its hospitality operations were utilised by a broad customer base – ranging from weddings and large family gatherings through to corporate events.
“The bedroom and facility configuration of Waitakere Estate allows for the hosting of small corporate meetings and functions which traditionally book weekday stays, with the domestic leisure market booking Friday and Saturday night short-breaks. This sector includes a number of weddings throughout the year,” Ms Hanson said.
“Corporate facilities at the venue consist of three function rooms capable of seating 60, 35 and 20 guests respectively in a theatre style seating arrangement.
“Waitakere Estate’s proximity to Auckland, as a virtual suburban location, means it can be utilised as an ‘offsite’ destination reached by a minimal commute. The expanse of grounds within the native bush setting means team-building or social activities such as clay pigeon shooting, archery, abseiling, orienteering, petanque and croquet can all be catered for in-house.
“A large flat lawn area within the property is also regularly used as a helicopter landing pad for VIP clientele and those looking to arrive or depart ‘in style. There is also car parking for some 48 vehicles.”
Ms Hanson said a chapel within the grounds had recently been refurbished with the addition of new bathrooms and carpets. She said the chapel added a wonderful element to the hotel’s offering and had regularly been used as the backdrop to weddings over the past 50-years.
The hotel is located within the protected Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area surrounded by the mountain regional park which contains some 16,000 hectares of protected native forests containing numerous walking tracks leading to beaches, waterfalls and tree-lined picnic areas. The land is zoned rural conservation.
“With eco’ tourism now a defined niche within the wider tourism sector, there is the potential for any new owner of Waitakere Estate to reposition the business as an eco’ lodge to take advantage of its location within the ranges and just a short drive from the plethora of wild West Coast black sand beaches. That’s a big attraction for the likes of trampers and bird watchers,” she said.
“Vistas from bedrooms and suites within Waitakere Estate look out over the natural bush of the ranges, while views of Auckland city right into the CBD are accessed from the communal dining and meeting room areas.”
The Waitakere Estate business and property comprises a substantial 230 square metre four-bedroom/two-bathroom owner/manager’s residence with its own office. The 3,300 square metres of hotel buildings and amenities are accessed from a one-kilometre-long sealed driveway off Scenic Drive – ensuring total privacy for guests.
Mr Greenwood said the resource consent approval for the addition of a further 12 suites alongside the recently opened second major accommodation wing provided any new owner with the option to continue the business in its current format, or take it to a new level.
“Critical operations mass has been considerably improved with the new accommodation wing coming on line last year – increasing the efficiency of the existing adjoining food and beverage and function services. Any additional accommodation element will only further increase the utilisation proficiency of the kitchen, bar, and meeting room amenities,” he said.
“More room numbers will of course have the benefit of being able to cater for larger corporate groups, or for corporate and leisure travellers to be accommodated simultaneously.”
Mr Greenwood said that with resource consent granted to expand Waitakere Estate’s accommodation pool even further, there was scope for any potential new owner of the property to install premium quality internal furnishings and fittings within the rooms to offer a higher price point room rate above the existing stock.
He added that further value could be attached to the business through the addition of an officially-accredited quality rating - such as Tourism New Zealand’s Qualmark programme.
“Because of Waitakere Estate’s location amongst such an environmentally-sensitive area, the granting of the building consent for further extending the new accommodation wing adds considerable value to the overall business offering,” he said.
The Waitakere Estate business employs some seven full-time personnel, bringing in additional part-time staff for bigger functions. The venue’s restaurant operates seven days a week serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to both in-house guests and walk-in diners. The front of house is serviced by a full commercial-grade kitchen containing gas hobs, deep fryers, a combi’ oven, and walk-in fridge/freezer.