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Sections go up for sale in the town where land was once free

Tags: Residential

Lifestyle block-sized sections in a town where plots of residential land were once promoted on a ‘buy one get one free’ basis have now been placed on the market for sale with price tags upwards of $375,000.


The 34 sections are located in the South Island high country township of Twizel - which was established by the Government in 1968 to house workers building the Upper Waitaki Hydroelectricity Scheme.

The Government’s intention, at the scheme’s completion in the mid-1980s, was to remove the workers’ houses and demolish the supporting infrastructure – letting the township revert back to its natural environment.

However, a hardy band of Twizel residents had other plans - with many buying their ex-State dwellings and laying down long-term roots in the Mackenzie District township which sits at the base of the Southern Alps midway between Christchurch and Queenstown.

Twizel was designed for a peak population of 5,800 residents, with 1300 sections occupied in 1977. Almost all facilities and services that supported the town at the peak of the power project remain, with others, such as a solar-heated swimming pool later added.

Since 2000, economic activity in Twizel and the greater Mackenzie District has increased dramatically - primarily driven by recreational and sporting attractions. The town now has a resident population of 1200 people – which trebles in the peak of summer over the Christmas and New Year period.

Capitalising on this tourism and recreational activity-driven growth, 34 sections in a newly-created Twizel subdivision – called Merino Downs – have been placed on the market for sale through Bayleys Queenstown.

Salespeople Sharyn Thornfield and Stacy Coburn said the Merino Downs plots were being marketed as holiday home foundations – or ‘cribs’ as South Islanders refer to them – in a triangulated target catchment area stretching from Christchurch in the north, down the coastline to Dunedin in the south.

“Dunedin is a comfortable three-hour drive from Twizel, while Christchurch is only three-and-a-half-hours away. With Queenstown and Wanaka now two of the most expensive places to buy property anywhere in New Zealand, it’s opening up alternative Central Otago crib destinations…. such as Twizel,” Mr Coburn said.

“There are still locals in Twizel who remember the early 1990s when you could buy an ex-State house and land package in the town for $12,000 – or you could take up a ‘buy one, get one free’ section deal.

“The town has come a long way since then. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a house for sale under $369,000 – and that’s for a two-beddie ex-hydro’ home.”

Statistics from real estate sales data company CoreLogic spotlight that Twizel had the second highest growth in property values of any town or suburb outside of Auckland in the 11-years between November 2007 and August 2018 – rising by 89 percent. Twizel ranked second behind Kelvin Heights which had a rise of 91.9 percent, with the next six biggest value growth locations all in the Queenstown district.

Ms Thornfield said that like many New Zealand towns, Twizel had benefitted substantially from being part of the national cycling network – with Twizel directly located on the epic 300-kilometre Alps to Ocean trail from Mount Cook to Oamaru.

“However, the region is now an attraction for multiple other activities – ranging from salmon fishing, hunting, water-skiing jet-skiing and kayaking on Lake Ruataniwha, Lake Ohau, or Lake Benmore which are all within 10 minutes drive of Twizel, through to mountain and trail bike riding, snow skiing at either the Ohau or Roundhill fields, and high country walks in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, Ruataniwha Conservation Area, and Ahuriri Conservation Area,” she said.

“Twizel is also situated in the middle of the Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve which offers some of the best astrological night sky viewing in New Zealand

“Meanwhile, Lake Ruataniwha beside the town is also the South Island’s premier rowing and kayaking course – with national events at both school and club level now alternating on a bi-annual basis with Lake Karapiro in the Waikato. There’s also numerous other smaller regattas on the lake throughout the rowing season which bring in big numbers.

“The week-long New Zealand Maadi Cup rowing regatta for example is the biggest secondary schools sporting event in the Southern Hemisphere – with all accommodation in the Mackenzie District, and even down to Queenstown and Wanaka, booked out by competing schools and their supporters.”

Mr Coburn fully expected many purchasers of sections within Merino Downs would look at letting out their dwellings as short term and holiday rentals.

“There is a dearth of holiday rental accommodation in the town when the big rowing regattas are on,” he said. “Aside from those week-long events, there are substantial opportunities for much shorter lets to domestic tourists coming in for the weekend, or even nightly stays for cyclists on the Alps to Ocean trail or for those taking in the Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve,” he said.

With Merino Downs section sizes ranging from 5000 square metres to 6067 square metres, and from $375,000 to $435,000, Mr Coburn said dwelling design and build guidelines and controls were in place to preserve the integrity and value of the neighbourhood.

All sections were already titled, he said, enabling council building consents to be submitted immediately.

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