Kiwi's Italian island dream foiled

Last updated 15:14 09/01/2014

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A Kiwi millionaire has had his dream to buy an idyllic Mediterranean island foiled after an eleventh-hour bid by the Italian Government.

Michael Harte, who is paid NZ$1.89m as chief information officer of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, bought the tiny island of Budelli for 2.94 million euros (NZ$4.8m) in October last year after its former owner went bust.

Budelli is part of a group of islands between Sardinia and Corsica, and is just a short boat ride from the luxury villa where former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi held some of his infamous "bunga bunga" sex parties.

But a high-profile campaign was fought to save Budelli from foreign ownership, and the senate in Rome passed legislation enabling the government to repurchase it.

Italian publication Repubblica.it has reported that on January 7, a day before the deadline, the Italian Government submitted an application to buy the island.

The publication said the decision was still controversial, with some questioning the expenditure during an economic crisis.

After buying the island, Mr Harte, 47, described himself as a committed conservationist and pledged to keep it in pristine condition.

He also said he would allow day-trippers and yacht owners to continue to visit the 170-hectare island.

The island, a rocky outcrop with famously pink sandy beaches, featured in director Michelangelo Antonioni's 1960s film Deserto Rosso (Red Desert) starring Richard Harris and Monica Vitti.

Among its very few buildings are a caretaker's house, the ruins of a cabin and a dry stone wall along the beach.

It is understood the Italian Government will pay Mr Harte the original asking price to reclaim the island.

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- The Dominion Post

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