Investor spends $10m in South Island

SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES: Ceres' owner David McIntyre, right, in New Zealand for their Christmas party, with marketing executive Bernie De Vere.
SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES: Ceres' owner David McIntyre, right, in New Zealand for their Christmas party, with marketing executive Bernie De Vere.

A Florida-based investor says he will soon have invested about $10 million in the Christchurch rebuild and opportunities around the South Island, including a goldmine start-up near Queenstown.

David McIntyre was in Christchurch yesterday, visiting from his home base of Sarasota, to see how his demolition team is going as the focus of the rebuild moves from demolition to new projects.

McIntyre said the demolition could be over in six months or stretch through next year, depending on how smoothly insurance talks go.

His privately owned firm, Ceres New Zealand, was set up after the February 22 earthquake and could have a 10-year lifespan, with $10m already invested, he said.

"It's a variety [of investment]. Some of it is in the goldmine, some is in equipment, the commitments on these properties we're buying."

McIntyre, who has significant property and commercial asset investments in Florida, became interested in New Zealand while on holiday in December 2010, liking what he saw as a tourist.

Ceres NZ is a subsidiary of United States-based Ceres Environmental Services, an international disaster recovery company.

After Hurricane Katrina it won a US$1 billion contract over three years to clean up damage to homes and debris around New Orleans. "That was a massive cleanup; for example, we had 10,000 trucks in the field."

In Christchurch, Ceres NZ has been involved in trying to save the historic Billens building, recently hit by fire, and other heritage projects. It has also set up an office in Wellington for potential seismic-strengthening work.

The company is moving into other property-based projects, including the moving of non-damaged houses from damaged land on to new residential lots.

The first relocation was from a damaged Brooklands piece of land to an undamaged site in Amberley.

"We've done one, we've bought other lots, we're ramping it up," McIntyre said.

He said Ceres and Christchurch developer Shaun Johnston were in a joint venture on the Woods Mill building in Addington.

The planned development will convert the New Zealand Historic Places Trust category 2 mill into a boutique hotel surrounded by bars, restaurants and entertainment venues.

"We're proceeding with the retro-fit of Woods Mill and that's ultimately going to be turned into seven or eight restaurants and bars," Ceres marketing executive Bernie de Vere said.

Part of the development is improving on the building code standard by securing and strengthening walls and the structure.

Another significant building project was in the pipeline. It would be within the total $10m of investments. Some of the financing of projects was done through his private equity firm, Vesta Equity, McIntyre said.

Ceres was one of the demolition contractors on the 14-storey Radio Network House "implosion" in central Christchurch in August.

The Press