Hollywood director adds landmark to his empire

Last updated 05:00 03/07/2014
Baillie House

THE MOA THE MERRIER: Greytown's historic Baillie House at 101 Main St, built about 1885, has been sold to James Cameron - along with its life-size moa sculpture, built by Brett Harman.

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James Cameron has snapped up Wairarapa dairy farms, a walnut orchard and a lake - now he also owns one of the region's oldest buildings, and a giant prehistoric bird.

After confirmation this week of the Hollywood director's latest Wairarapa land purchases - two parcels south of Featherston - it has emerged that he also now owns 101 Main St, Greytown, a 129-year-old building in the town's heritage precinct.

A spokesman for Cameron, Willy Sussman, of Auckland law firm Bell Gully, said the Canadian director was very pleased with the purchase.

"James Cameron has always been taken with the beauty of Greytown."

The building's central section was constructed in 1885 for Scottish sawmiller James Baillie after he reputedly found gold there. Modern additions are a shopfront, occupied by the Greytown Gallery, and a spacious living area.

The deal included the property's landmark life-size moa sculpture, made by former Weta special effects modelmaker Brett Harman.

Although the Avatar and Titanic director's latest land deals, and 10 other known ones in Wairarapa, all required consent from the Overseas Investment Office, the Greytown sale does not because it is urban, and therefore "non-sensitive", land.

Narena Olliver sold the property three months ago, having run her New Zealand Birds website and art business from it for a decade. She and her partner were moving out at the end of the month but staying in Greytown, she said.

"We're absolutely ecstatic . . . [the Camerons] are serious greenies, so that's good."

She would not reveal the price paid and did not know Cameron's plans for it, but had heard they included a vegan restaurant or food store.

Cameron bought a Carterton walnut orchard last year and is growing crops on his property south of Featherston, overlooking Pounui Lake, where he often stays with wife Suzy Amis Cameron and their three children.

Amis Cameron told The Dominion Post in February that her son Jasper, 24, from her first marriage, was looking to settle in New Zealand and made "fabulous cordon bleu food" from olives, walnuts, honey, feijoas, figs and avocados, among other crops, grown on the property.

"Our diet is fully vegan . . . 90 per cent of everything we consume here, we grow ourselves."

Sussman said Cameron had no definite plans for the building yet.

Heritage New Zealand spokesman David Watt said that as the property, known as Baillie House, pre-dated 1900, it was officially an archaeological site and an authority would be needed required for demolition or earthwork. The property was protected in the district plan.

South Wairarapa District Council planning manager Murray Buchanan confirmed the building was protected under the District Plan.

Food retail would be a permitted activity, but no applications for licences, permits, resource or building consents had been received, he said.

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- The Dominion Post


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