Historic hotel has past but wants future

Last updated 10:06 09/02/2013
Spa Hotel

UP FOR SALE: Taupo's old Spa Hotel as it is today. The site contains buildings dating back to the mid 1860s.

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Taupo's run-down old Spa Hotel, which has been operating for more than 150 years, is being sold by a company associated with National Party president Peter Goodfellow.

The hotel, one of the country's oldest, was established in 1869 by Edward Lofley.

He was a quartermaster in the armed constabulary which was involved in the hunt for guerrilla leader Te Kooti, whose repeated raids from the Ureweras were a constant threat to European settlement.

Lofley set up a depot for the troops where the hotel now stands - it had a constant supply of hot water for cooking and bathing and a place to corral their horses.

It was the start of what later became Lake Taupo Hot Baths and Sanatorium.

The 7.5-hectare property features a number of heritage buildings including a chapel dating back to the mid-1860s and cottages built in the late 19th century and early 20th.

The hotel, now run as a budget and backpacker operation, has bar and restaurant facilities for up to 480 people, 15 chalet units able to take five guests each, 10 studio units configured to sleep three guests each, accommodation for staff and long-stay guests, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a thermal bore to provide heating to the accommodation.

The land and buildings have a 2012 rating value of $5.34 million.

It is being sold by its owner Te Tiki o Tamamutu Holdings and finance company Easy Factors International, in which Goodfellow is a director.

Tamamutu Holdings director Gerard van Tilborg said the company acquired the property in 2011 when Easy Factors International moved to recover loans and it was now looking to take it to the market.

Its last owner was Oasis Properties, a company now in liquidation. It was owned by Auckland developer Michael McGurk, who was caught in the collapse of Hanover Finance.

Bayleys Auckland agent Paul Dixon said it was hard to estimate what the property and business might go for.

Although it had been trading well, the property was "rather run-down".

Van Tilborg described it as "hardly two stars" - it was popular with truckies during the week and sports groups on the weekend - but a lot of work had been done to tidy it up.

Dixon said the bones of the business were essentially sound and it would provide a solid platform for a modern accommodation and hospitality operation.

"Hospitality consultants have already noted that the real opportunity lies with basing any business around the cultural and historical aspects associated with this site.

"The nearby Hilton Lake Taupo resort, for example, successfully completed a similar transformation three years ago - adding a modern dimension to its cornerstone amenities by utilising the framework of what was the historic Terraces Hotel built on the site 120 years ago."

A 2012 heritage assessment report said: "The Spa Hotel represents the beginnings of Taupo's tourist industry, which is the current mainstay of the local economy. It is here that the true significance off the Spa Hotel complex lies, and its cultural association value is assessed as very high.

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"The current amenity value of the Spa Hotel complex is moderately low. The potential amenity value is high."

Maori connections with the hotel and land could prove attractive to iwi enterprises looking to build tourism interests, said Dixon.

A 126-year-old meeting house, Tiki o te Tamamutu, crafted by Arawa master-carver Wero and sold by Maori chief Tamamutu in 1886, was removed last year.

Van Tilborg said the wharenui was rotting and in danger of collapse, and was now in storage.

The wharenui and the associated carvings - estimated to be worth several million dollars - are being offered for sale by Auckland- based fine arts house Webb's.

But it could be offered to a new owner so it could be rebuilt on site or some other appropriate location.

The owners were willing to negotiate a package combining the land, buildings, business, and meeting house, said Dixon.

Offers for the property and business close on March 27.

- The Dominion Post

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