International Property

Deserted New Zealand village up for sale for US$1.8 million after stampede to live in cities

  • Lake Waitaki boasts mountain views, eight three-bedroom homes, a restaurant, a lodge, water rights, nine garages and 14 hectares of land.
  • Chinese investors among those expressing interest.
PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 7:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 7:22pm

An entire village that has been deserted for three decades is up for sale in New Zealand.

Lake Waitaki village was built in the 1930s as workers accommodation for dam labourers but has lain largely empty since 1989 when the dam’s operation was automated.

Located on the edge of the Waitaki dam in the South Island, it boasts mountain views as well as eight three-bedroom homes, a restaurant, a lodge, water rights, nine garages and 14 hectares of land – all for US$1.8 million.

Waitaki is just one of many small communities that have struggled to stay afloat as the New Zealand’s population has become increasingly urbanised. Two years ago, the tiny town of Kaitangata in South Otago launched a global campaign to boost its population, saying it had too many jobs, too many houses and not enough people to fill them.

The Labour-led government has earmarked US$650 million a year for the regional development fund, designed to revitalise the regions by luring people away from the cities and back to struggling rural areas.

Lake Waitaki was sold by the state to a private buyer in 1991 before passing through several hands over the years.

Since the New Zealand government brought in a ban on foreign buyers last week, estate agent Kelli Milmine said it is hard to tell which prospective buyers are domestic or international, because foreign buyers had started using New Zealand intermediaries to make enquiries. Some Chinese nationals had expressed interest, she said.

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The foreign buyers ban is intended to stop foreigners from buying existing residential homes that New Zealanders could otherwise purchase and live in.

Trusts and companies that are registered outside New Zealand or are more than 25 per cent foreign owned will be treated as foreign individuals and prohibited from buying residential property, but can purchase land or non-residential property through the overseas investment office.

Overseas buyers are also allowed to buy residential property if they are residents in New Zealand and intend to live in the property as their main home for 183 days of each year.

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Milmine said the village has not been thriving since at least the 1970s.

She said there has been “heaps” of interest, ranging from people wanting to create a boutique farm, a winery, a tourism venture or a communal living arrangement for their friends and family.

The price tag for the village was putting off some locals, Milmine said, with domestic buyers willing to offer about the NZ$1m mark – or about US$650 million.

The village was originally home to 40 staff and their families, as well as the hub of activity for the 1,200 workers who laboured on the dam. Waitaki Dam was the last in New Zealand to be constructed using picks, shovels and wheelbarrows, as part of a government initiative to reduce unemployment.