US tourism firm buys Lilydale
Should New Zealand be selling farms to foreign investors?
Lilydale Station has been sold to an American-based tourism business for potentially a multimillion-dollar sum.
Donald and Barbara Bray put the Fairlie station on the market more than five years ago. They initially hoped for a New Zealand buyer.
However, Mr Bray confirmed Recreational Holdings had received approval to buy the 4046-hectare property from the Overseas Investment Office.
"The buyer was very sensitive about the station's iconic value and hopes to maintain much the same environment," Mr Bray said.
The station had been in the Bray family since 1912.
Donald Bray's grandfather, Sydney Bray, bought the land from the Crown in the late 1940s.
According to the Overseas Investment Office, the property's "consideration value" was $3.5m.
The regulator approved the sale on the grounds it would generate jobs, while it also took into account Recreational Holdings' sensitive approach to the natural environment in its proposal.
The Brays operate a recreational tourism business as well as farming the land but would not comment on the agreements reached with Recreational Holdings.
"We're not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. This land is in our blood and we know the new owners respect the place," Mr Bray said.
The station also includes the Fox Peak Ski area. Fox Peak president Grant Keeley said the club had a long-term lease on the ski area. "At this stage, the club will continue as normal. What the new owners want to do with the rest of the land is up to them," he said.
Recreational Holdings' New Zealand spokesman, Peter Fyfe, said it began negotiations with the Bray family about a year ago.
He declined to give a history of the company, which the Overseas Investment Office lists as 100 per cent American-owned.
In February 2011, Recreational Holdings paid $480,000 for 36.4ha in the Wairoa Gorge in Nelson to develop a mountainbike park and an accommodation lodge.
"In due course and when conditions are appropriate Recreational Holdings intends to develop Lilydale Station in a similar manner to its Nelson property," Mr Fyfe said.
This is the second approved sale of a high country station in the past six months. In July, Singapore-based businessman Richard Magides received approval to buy a 2700ha freehold area of Ben Avon Station from Jim and Mary Ann Morris.
- © Fairfax NZ News