Reminder of Cold War era back on the market

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 26/04/2014

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Members of the wealthy Rothschild family are selling up a prime piece of land on Waiheke Island, bought as a retreat 50 years ago during the Cuban missile crisis.

Real estate agents hope the 4ha waterfront property at 15 Rothschild Tce will sell for at least $5 million.

It includes a 202 square metre homestead dating back to the 1840s which once belonged to a Belgian consul to New Zealand, Charles de Witte.

Maurine and Robert Rothschild bought the property in 1963, when the Cold War between America and Russia was at its height.

In a personally written statement, their son Peter Rothschild said his parents were great sailors and had been cruising the Hauraki Gulf.

"My parents thought of finding a safe haven from what might develop into WW III.

"At the time, nuclear war may have seemed ‘escapable' in the Southern Hemisphere and New Zealand appeared attractive as a democratic, English-speaking alternative."

They originally bought 800ha of farmland but the agent in charge of the sale, Bill Ryan of Bayley's Real Estate, said almost all of it had been divested by the 1980s.

A subdivision and later the Te Whau Vineyard were now based where the farm once was.

Rothschild said the family had a "deep, abiding appreciation" for New Zealand's history and beauty.

On one occasion, Maurine found out there were plans to build a new road along the Rocky Bay beachfront.

"Appalled, my mother jumped on a plane in New York, making a 23-hour journey to appear on New Zealand television in a desperate effort to stop the road and save the unspoiled landscape along the beach and across several ravines still foliated with original native bush."

Rothschild said he and his sister Katherine were both devoted to conservation. She was an artist and he was a landscape architect and planner.

"As heirs to the New Zealand property, we have always viewed our responsible stewardship as an extension of these values."

But after attempting to lease the property to a farmer, he said the family had accepted that sheep farming was not their strength.

"As my generation approaches retirement, it seems increasingly unlikely we will ever be able to occupy our New Zealand paradise.

"It is our earnest hope that the next owners will see the property in its current state as an important legacy to be maintained for generations to come."

Ryan said the Wharetana Bay property had a rateable value of about $3m but he felt $5m was a more realistic price as the island's rateable values were "out of whack".

Tenders for the property close on May 29.

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- BusinessDay

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