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James Cameron buy-up doesn't impress all

SEAMUS BOYER
Last updated 05:00 01/06/2012

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Hollywood film-maker James Cameron has added three more properties to his growing Kiwi empire, with the latest purchases providing a buffer from curious neighbours.

Yesterday the Overseas Investment Office gave Cameron the green light to buy a total of 26 hectares in south Wairarapa, where the Titanic and Avatar director already owns more than 1000ha of native bush and farmland.

However, the purchases have failed to win over some locals, with one calling the buy-up an "invasion".

The three properties, all bordering Cameron's land on Pounui Ridge, consist of a 4ha bare block of land sold by American Andrew Miller, a former director of nearby luxury resort Wharekauhau Lodge; a 9ha block of native bush sold by Jeremy Bennett and Victoria Shaw; and a 13ha developed site believed to be Pounui Homestead, a bed and breakfast and wedding venue. The prices of all three are listed as confidential.

Ms Shaw, whose parents Bill and Annette Shaw sold Cameron their Pounui farm, said the land she sold was largely covered by native bush.

"It's a great spot. We were looking at building there at some stage but the baby has come along so we've decided it's probably the right time to sell."

The purchase would give Cameron added privacy, reducing the number of possible neighbours, she said. She had not dealt personally with him, and would not reveal the purchase price.

The largest property of the three, Pounui Homestead, contains several buildings including self-contained accommodation and a replica barn. A website describes the property as the "ultimate retreat location", containing a stream, olive grove and orchard.

Despite a positive response from tourism operators and the South Wairarapa mayor, not all locals are happy with Cameron's continued buy-up.

One Western Lake resident said: "Everything's all hush-hush and secretive at the moment, it's starting to feel like you're not a local any more."

Another said local buyers were being priced out of the market.

"I think a lot of people are buzzing out about it, having the likes of him next door, but it's just putting the land out of reach of the locals, who I'm sure would love to be able to buy that sort of land."

In January, Cameron paid about $20 million for two large rural properties, one a 250ha dairy farm, the other a much larger 817ha hillside property overlooking Lake Pounui, which he also now owns. In March, he added a 10ha lifestyle block.

OIO rules state that potential overseas investors have to make separate applications for each purchase.

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Cameron and wife Suzy Amis have said they want to raise their children, 10-year-old twins Claire and Quinn, and Elizabeth Rose, 5, "close to the land and with a strong work ethic".

There has been speculation that he was considering making an offer on a sheep station, Wharepapa, but the 538ha property is still on the market.

- The Dominion Post

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