Overseas trio to get station land back

Last updated 05:00 01/08/2014

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An Israeli billionaire family, an American ocean explorer and a philanthropist can buy back land sold to a developer whose property deal failed.

The Overseas Investment Office has granted foreign investors Morris Kahn and family, Ian and Tonya Koblick and Shmuel Meitar an investment for an undisclosed sum in 39 hectares of land at Walter Peak.

Kahn, Meitar and Koblick's companies own Walter Peak Station but previously sold some of the land to American developer Rod Nielsen.

Kahn runs Aurum Ventures, an investment and technology firm, while Florida-based Koblick has helped map shipwrecks around the world. Philanthropist Meitar, a close business associate of Kahn, has interests in education software technology and telecommunications.

The seller is Aviation Properties, a company run by Nielsen, who was behind numerous pre-recession projects in Queenstown, including a planned $50 million lifestyle project at Walter Peak, a well-known high-country stations.

Nielsen bought Walter Peak land for $10m in 2006 and planned to build a luxury lodge, homesteads and cottages.

The Overseas Investment Office granted an acquisition of sensitive land from Walter Peak Corporate Trustee for mortgage interests in 34.8ha at the station, the bulk of the land sold in 2006.

"The property developer intended to construct residential dwellings and a visitor accommodation lodge on the land but went into receivership before the development could be completed."

In 2008, before the receivership, the station owners loaned funds to Nielsen and secured a loan via mortgages over the land. They sought and were granted retrospective consent to acquire mortgage interests.

The station owners, who re-acquired other land sold to Nielsen, intended to enforce the mortgages, acquire the land and develop the station, including indigenous planting programmes, the decision said.

The Companies Office lists Rex Chapman, of Invercargill, and John Williamson, of Alexandra, as directors and shareholders of the trustee company.

Previously, they were embroiled in a dispute with Nielsen and his development firm when there was an issue with covenants and Nielsen demanded damages. An agreement was reached with Corporate Trustees, who granted a $3.8m interest-free loan to a related Nielsen company. However, the main Nielsen development failed, prompting more litigation.

Walter Peak Station shareholders are Aurum Holdings MKI, an investment firm in Israel run by the Kahn family, a Channel Islands-based firm and a third 10 per cent shareholder.

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- The Southland Times


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