New Zealand and the South Pacific can lay claim to some of the most outstanding waterfront locations in the world.

Waterfront editor, Jody Robb, takes a retrospective look at how the New Zealand waterfront market has ‘grown up’, with an emphasis on those areas featured in the magazine’s inaugural edition two decades ago.

Magazine cover

Back in the early 1990s, Bayleys had been in business for more than two decades and had consolidated a reputation for innovative property marketing strategies with extensive national and international reach across all sectors.

Its foray into the waterfront-specific property niche came at a time when Bayleys had offices in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, Sydney and Hong Kong. Today, there are more than 70 offices around New Zealand, and two in Fiji.

In the foreword to the inaugural Waterfront magazine, then-managing director and now chairman of Bayleys, John Bayley, stressed New Zealand was increasingly valued as an environmentally-secure location for international investors on the back of its scenic beauty, and heightened by potential for long-term growth for tourism and related industries.

Two decades on, and that appeal remains. New Zealand’s waterfront property credentials continue to be sought-after by international and domestic buyers with special appeal for ex-pats’ who yearn for the Kiwi lifestyle.
The portfolio of properties offered to the market today in Waterfront magazine represents a broader geographical spectrum – with the South Island featured – and far more choice than in the early-1990s. There were just 17 properties in the 1993 edition – all north of Taupo. In comparison, the 2015 magazine profiles more than 90 waterfront property opportunities.

Let’s step back in time and revisit some of the properties for sale with Bayleys more than 20 years ago…


New Zealand’s evolving waterfront and coastal property market and the value growth in areas within a couple of hours’ drive of Auckland is superbly illustrated by the ‘then and now’ comparisons of Omaha, less than an hour north of Auckland city.

A causeway linking Omaha to the mainland was established in the 1970s, opening up the area to holidaymakers and increasingly, permanent residents.

Back in 1993, Bayleys’ Waterfront magazine had 20 individual beach resort sections listed for sale – each around 600m² in size – at the northern end of Omaha, known as Omaha Point. Six of the sites fronted the Omaha Beach Reserve and prices ranged from $57,000 to $145,000.

The marketing material mentioned that a further 200 sections would be developed at Omaha Point and that the recreational facilities included the nearby golf course, tennis courts, boat ramp and a soon-to-be-built community centre.

Fast-forward two decades, and Omaha has become the darling of the coastal property market with eye-watering values being recorded for both bare land sites, and holiday homes from modest to majestic.

A bare land 617m² beachfront section at the northern end of Omaha sold in September 2014 for $1.75 million – the first beachfront section sale at that end for nearly seven years.

The most recent beachfront section sale in the newer southern end development – in April 2013 – saw a Taumata Road site selling for $2.16 million. The highest price ever paid for a beachfront home in Omaha is $4.151 million, achieved in November 2011 at the southern end. That price has not yet been exceeded – despite there being 23 further waterfront house sales since then.

In the 1990s, most of the land north of Success Court – where Prime Minister John Key has a holiday home – was owned by well-known property developer Alistair Dryden who has developed other precincts within Omaha north including Excelsior and Lagoon Ways. Around 42 sites on the very tip of the peninsula, also owned by Dryden, have never been released to the market.

Photographs taken from the air showing Omaha Point today reveal the significant changes that have taken place since the early-1990s – both at the northern and southern ends of Omaha.

In recent years, the southern end of Omaha – previously farmland – has been subdivid ed into 554 sites with around 75 yet to be built on, and many currently in the design/consent process.

Titles in southern Omaha have covenants requiring owners to be members of the Omaha Beach Residents Society, a committee made up of property owners from that end, and for building designs to be approved by a design control committee. These covenants were cemented by the original developers to protect property values, set minimum design/build standards and guard the visual integrity of the area.

There are no covenants in place on land at the northern end aside from height restrictions through the usual council processes.

A feature of Omaha is the extensive network of walkways and reserves which link homes with the beach and fellow residents, and provides walking and cycling opportunities. This walkway network was instigated at the northern end and continued when the southern end was opened up for development.

In the middle section of Omaha, and close to the active surf lifesaving club, there is now some commercial development including a dairy/superette, a gift shop, a café and a Bayleys office. Between the shops and the beach, there is one generous vacant commercial-zoned site which did have resource consent in place for a 120-seat restaurant.

The 18-hole all-weather sand-based par-70 golf course, tennis courts, bowling club and community centre with café and bar, are popular haunts for residents and holidaymakers. The all-tide boat ramp is busy in summer offering boaties great launching facilities and easy access to the islands of the outer Hauraki Gulf.

The nearest petrol pump is at Matakana – the revitalised settlement with boutique shops, movie theatres, farmers’ and craft markets, and dining options just five minutes drive away.

Omaha today

Omaha today


Featured on the front cover and billed as “the jewel in the crown of the Hauraki Gulf”, Moturekareka Island was one of the more fascinating properties to feature in Bayleys’ first-ever Waterfront magazine.

The island is accessible by boat from Sandspit, Warkworth, Snells Beach and Kawau Island.

Offering golden beaches, secluded coves, abundant marine life and pohutukawa groves, the island was zoned Rural Conservation 3 under the then-Rodney District Council district plan. That zoning would have allowed farm stay or home stay accommodation and related activities, plus one significant dwelling could have been built as long as it was “in total sympathy with the native environment”.

The island – while clearly having superb credentials as a hideaway retreat – was not purchased by a wealthy individual with aspirations of a Richard Branson-style existence.

Instead, it was sold for $750,000 to the Crown as a public reserve in 1993, and was gazetted as a scenic reserve in 1996 coming under the auspices of the Department of Conservation (DOC).

The current rateable value of the island is $4.575 million.

At more than 15ha, Moturekareka – meaning ‘pleasant island’ – is the largest of a chain of three islands which are interconnected by sand spits at half-low tide. The other two islands are Motutara and Kohatutara.

Moturekareka has a special place in local folklore as it was home at different times to two colourful hermits – Charlie Hansen and Snow Harris.

Former sheep farmer, Hansen, lived in a shack located in a northern bay on Moturekareka and apparently owned several neighbouring small islands. He purchased a 3,000 tonne four-masted barque named the Rewa – which had languished for many years in Auckland – and beached the ship as a breakwater off a bay on Moturekareka where today, its rusting hull is a popular snorkelling destination.

Hansen is understood to have sold the islands privately and died in the early 1940s in Auckland.

Harris, the island’s second-known hermit, lived on Moturekareka from 1962-1978. He lived in Hansen’s shack and purportedly would row in a bathtub to nearby Kawau Island to collect his pension. DOC ranger Michelle Jenkinson says Moturekareka has a good anchorage, is popular with boaties and kayakers, and has tight controls over flora and fauna.

“Dogs are not allowed ashore and there is no camping or fires allowed on any of the islands in the immediate vicinity,” says Jenkinson.

“Last winter an Auckland University project, in conjunction with Auckland Council and DOC, eradicated mice across Moturekareka, Motutara and Kohatutara and there are no other mammalian pests present.

“The island now has many seabird burrows and that is likely to increase now that the mice are gone.”

Moturekareka today

Moturekareka today


Onetangi today

Onetangi today

Onetangi on Waiheke Island offers 2.5 kilometres of golden sand beach which is ideal for swimming.
Back in 1993, a 2.16 hectare water’s edge site was on the market. Up for offer was inherent development potential, along with existing cash flow from a bar-bistro complex, an original two-storey hotel with accommodation and conference facilities, and a wholesale bottle store outlet.

The property did not sell then and the owner later restored and developed the 1920s’ hotel into six apartments, selling them individually.

The land behind the old hotel has been subdivided into four, 2,000m² sites and a 6,000m² parcel of land which could be used for an additional apartment development, tourist accommodation – or, as word on the Waiheke streets has suggested – even a retirement complex.

It is understood that the original owner still retains ownership of the majority of the land.

The front component of the property marketed in 1993 has had various dining incarnations and is now home to a popular restaurant and bar, Charlie Farley’s.

The former standalone bottle store has closed and has been incorporated into a wedding and conference facility known as The Venue.

Te Whau today

Te Whau today

Three parcels of land on the Te Whau Peninsula, Waiheke Island, were up for offer in 1993 promoted as ‘the perfect getaway location to complement your cosmopolitan lifestyle’.

Today, the award-winning Te Whau Vineyard occupies an 8.7 hectare estate on the peninsula, established by husband and wife Tony and Moira Forsyth, and sister Caroline Forsyth.

Te Whau’s vineyards were planted in 1996 on the steep, sheltered, north-facing slopes, comprising Bordeaux varietals – cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and malbec – with syrah and chardonnay added at a later date.

The three-level winery complex was completed in 1999 in time for the first vintage. The building features a restaurant on the upper level with extensive views of Waiheke Island, Auckland city and the inner Hauraki Gulf. A fully-equipped gravity-flow winery, temperature-controlled underground cellar, office, storage, staff facilities and a three-bedroom apartment over two levels.

Other standout features on the estate include ancient pohutukawa trees, and reliable water supply from a deep bore.

Te Whau’s wines have been lauded by leading national and international wine critics, and have garnered an international following with arguably the world’s greatest wine writer, Hugh Johnson OBE, saying Te Whau is one of his favourite 200 wineries in the world.

Te Whau vineyard is currently on the market for sale – with the Forsyths’ two decades of hard work evident to all.

It is widely accepted that Te Whau is one of the key drivers behind Waiheke’s reputation as the ‘island of wine’.


The coastal resort town of Mount Maunganui on a peninsula to the north of Tauranga is defined by the extinct volcano cone or mountain at its western end - officially known by its Maori name of Mauao, but affectionately referred to as The Mount, as indeed the immediate area is, too.

The Mount is a hive of activity at peak summer season with both the mellow harbour-side beach and the ocean-side waves attracting holiday-makers.

Surfers rock up with their boards, families cycle along the seaside boardwalk, lifeguards patrol at the surf club, cruise ships ease into port on the harbour-side, and people walk the coastal track around the bottom of the Mount or scale up to the summit. The white sand beaches are packed with sun umbrellas and sunbathers.
The Mount Royale apartment complex located along the real estate golden mile – Marine Parade – was built in the mid-1980s and was one of the first multi-level dwellings to be erected in the popular holiday spot.
In the inaugural edition of Waterfront magazine, a 213m² two bedroom penthouse with balconies on three sides affording ever-changing views of both the harbour and the ocean was marketed for sale. It sold for around $530,000 – when its rateable value was just over that. Today, the property’s rateable value is in excess of $1,600,000.

There are 12 apartments and a swimming pool in the complex. Rob Flannagan bought one apartment in the late 1980s not long after it was built, and has recently purchased a second apartment.

“The building is referred to as the ‘grandmother building’ of Mount Maunganui – and it still looks as good today as when it was built,” Flannagan says.

“There is one original apartment owner still living in the complex, and the building itself is pretty timeless. The only exterior structural change has been the addition of conservatories to all apartments extending the outdoor living options.”

“Around 60 percent of owners are permanent residents, while others come and go – as we do – and the complex has always had a very prudent body corporate structure.

“The caretaker keeps the place looking smart and when we’re here, we essentially leave the car parked up and walk everywhere.”

“I wanted to ensure that my kids had a place at the beach to go to,” he says.

“The children have gone forth and multiplied, and now the grandkids are old enough to want to stay at the apartment on their own so we’ve bought a second one to give us a bit of privacy and independence from them.”

Back when the Mount Royale apartments were built, single level, bach-type residences defined the neighbourhood. Now, there are multi-level complexes all along the Marine Parade strip as developers have snapped up underutilised sites and changed the face of Mount Maunganui as a residential area.

“The Council is proactive and positive in the sense that development has been fairly sensitively planned and managed,” Flannagan says.

“The height limit for buildings falls in a contoured line away from the Mount itself to Mount Drury Reserve further along the beachfront so the Twin Towers apartment building on the corner is the highest.

“While the look of the residential dwellings along the beachfront of Mount Maunganui has certainly changed significantly, and there is higher density living, I think the essence of the place remains.

“The surf is still fantastic, the weather is great, the hot pools are still here, and it’s a safer area today with a bit more compliance expected around behaviour from the younger generation.”

Mt Maunganui today

Mount Maunganui today


With no road access, Orokawa Bay on the Orokawa Peninsula in the Bay of Islands falls into an enviable and coveted category of waterfront property – one where owning a boat or having access to a helicopter is essential.
Back in 1993, a 5 hectare parcel of land with two bungalows, a bunkhouse and a large boat shed on it, was put up for sale in Bayleys’ Waterfront magazine.

The property which also spanned much of Te Angamate Bay, had significant tracts of native bush, established pohutukawa trees, a sheltered deep water mooring and three “glorious beaches with riparian rights”.
Orokawa Bay is a slice of New Zealand available to just a handful of people – with much of it comprising Maori-owned land.

The property marketed by Bayleys back in 1993 was purchased by a publicity-shy Kiwi living in New York who built a substantial new home on the footprint of the original two dwellings.

The point lake Taupo

The point lake Taupo today

The point lake Taupo today

Six lots of land with identified housebuilding sites within the exclusive gated community The Point on the north-western shores of Lake Taupo went up for auction in March 1993.

The land was originally purchased in 1935 by the Gower family, local stalwarts of the Taupo community. In the 1980s, the land was subdivided by Rob Gower to offer sites with exceptional lake and mountain views, luxury communal facilities for property owners, and hideaway privacy.

Resident amenities include the use of a communal helipad, boat ramps, tennis court, caretaker for shared areas and a pavilion nestled into a back drop of native bush for private functions. Several kilometres of walkways have also been created within the development.

Bare sites in the early stages of the development were selling for less than $300,000. Today, luxury homes that come to the market within The Point fall into the multi-million dollar category.

The subdivision has matured nicely and remains as an aspirational location for those looking for seclusion, peace, quiet and the ultimate Lake Taupo lifestyle.

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