Offer on 'Flyer' declined

New Zealander David Rowell, of Seattle. Photo supplied.
New Zealander David Rowell, of Seattle. Photo supplied.
A New Zealander living in the United States says he offered to buy the Kingston Flyer for $1.25 million with the aim of returning the rusting historic steam train operation to its former commercial glory.

However, travel consultant David Rowell, of Seattle, told the Otago Daily Times this week the owner of the Flyer, David Bryce, of Renwick, declined his offer, then raised the asking price by $500,000.

The original 2013 asking price of the package of two locomotives, carriages, 10 land titles, buildings including the cafe-bar, chattels, plant and machinery was $2.5 million. But Mr Rowell said he believed the assets were not worth $2.5 million and did not represent the amount Mr Bryce paid to buy the Flyer in mid 2011.

''He bought a business that had two operating steam locomotives, now there is only one,'' Mr Rowell said.

''The other one needs at least $300,000 worth of boiler replacement.

''Everything has got older.

''The carriages have been parked outside in the rain for almost a year.''

He was concerned over the state of the wooden carriages and their canvas roof coverings.

''You just need a single pin prick and water starts to drop in and the carriage body starts to rot away.

''The steam engines themselves don't like being parked out just quietly rusting away either.

''Nothing's gone up in value since he bought it.

''Nothing's gone up in value since he stopped operating it, but he's standing on this figure since he first tried to sell it.''

Mr Rowell contacted Adrian Chisholm, of sales agent Tourism Properties, and Mr Bryce, when he discovered the Flyer was for sale when planning a Queenstown itinerary last October.

''As much as I like trains, I was approaching it more from a business proposition than a `save the Flyer' point of view and I just couldn't make the numbers add up,'' he said.

''The cost of buying the train is just the tip of the iceberg and eventually I made an offer, subject to a feasibility study and that sort of thing.''

Mr Rowell made his ''best and final offer'' of $1.25 million on February 27. Within a couple of hours, Mr Chisholm told Mr Rowell his offer had been turned down and Mr Bryce had lifted the asking price to $3 million.

''Then a bit later in the day, I got another note from the business broker saying David would be open to a more reasonable offer,'' Mr Rowell said.

''I sent a 10-page note explaining why I thought $1.25 million was more than it was worth.

''I said what is `more reasonable' and how about a counteroffer from David? How about- some sort of data to prove why he thinks it's worth what he thinks it's worth?''Nothing [was] forthcoming, of course.''

Mr Bryce, who put the Kingston Flyer on the market due to his ill health, said yesterday he had ''no comment'' on the offer.

He said the Flyer was still for sale at $2.5 million.

Mr Chisholm said yesterday more than 40 parties had inquired about the Flyer during the past 11 months.

''We are dealing with other buyers from China and India and other parties, via their solicitors, whose identities are still confidential and we're hopeful that over the next several months a buyer will see the value in the $2.5 million asking price,'' Mr Chisholm said.


On the buffers
• The Kingston Flyer is a category one protected feature in the district plan of the Queenstown Lakes District Council.
• Two engines and four carriages, located in the vicinity of the Kingston railway, including the Kingston Railway Station, are protected from ''demolition'', which includes removal from the district.
• The capital value of the land and buildings only shows a total of $1.7 million on the current rates assessment notices, Tourism Properties advertises.


- james.beech@odt.co.nz

Kingston Flyer

 

It would seem that the current owner is somewhat optimistic in his expectations of what this tourist operation is now worth. It seems is believed that it is in worse mechanical condition than it was some 24 months ago.
The current valuation being $1.7 million may in fact be too high, as some of the better land that went with the operation has been sold off already. Surely Mr Bryce would be better off cutting his losses and passing this operation on to someone else with deeper pockets.
Let's hope a new owner is found soon and that they can work with the local community to help revive this icon of New Zealand history. [Abridged]