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When Twizel was put up for sale, few would have imagined that, 25 years later, those same workers' homes would be selling for several hundred thousand dollars.
Indeed, when Margaret Armstrong moved from Oamaru to Twizel to join her new husband Russell in 1977, she said she was going to live there for a year.
''It was such a godforsaken hole,'' she said.
Ten years later she was still there and selling real estate, convinced there was a future for the town.
Initially, she worked for Oamaru agents Allen and Cayford from 1987, but then bought them out and established Armstrong Alpine Real Estate with The Professionals, a business she owns today.
Mr Armstrong now owns and operates Twizel Auto Services.
Together they are in the process of completing a new commercial building at the shopping centre, Market Square, and cannot imagine living anywhere else.
Like real estate in any other New Zealand area, it had had its up and downs depending on the economy, Mrs Armstrong said.
But each time it had bounced back higher than the previous peak, and continued to grow. That was reflected in Mrs Armstrong's ledger, which lists every home and section sold by the agency, some more than once.
The ledger shows that in 1997, those homes that originally sold for about $8000 to $12,500, were fetching $60,000 to $70,000.
In 2001, the market slowed down, but in 2002 picked up again and those basic homes were fetching more than $120,000 and sections $25,000.
In 2003-04, real estate prices in Twizel took a big jump, Mrs Armstrong said.
And they continued to grow.
Basic houses were selling for $160,000 in 2005, and now regularly fetch $190,000 to $200,000. The larger executive homes fetch up to $300,000, and sections from about $100,000 to more than $200,000.
In recent years, there has also been a large number of new homes built and a variety of subdivisions, including lifestyle blocks.
The highest price for a home in Twizel is now $1.1 million on a 2ha block.
Twizel Community Board chairman John Bishop backs the future of the town and its flurry of new-home building. From January to September this year, 34 permits have been issued for new houses.
Project village becomes home for residents
"This is my home, and I expect to be here a lot longer,'' 89-year-old Twizel resident George Welsh says about the Jollie Rd house he has lived in since 1970.
A Waitaki Valley resident since 1959, Mr Welsh worked for the Ministry of Works on hydro projects, apart from two years in the North Island on the Kapuni pipeline.
And the only way he reckons he will leave his Twizel house is ''when they carry me out feet first''.
Mr Welsh bought the house he was living in when he decided to take early retirement at 63 years of age. He paid $14,000 for his basic workers' home then, in 1987, and it is now probably worth about $220,000.
While staff and workers rented the houses they lived in, they were not allowed to make changes. One of the first things Mr Welsh did when he bought his was paint it a bright lilac.
''People asked me why, and I pointed to the browns, creams and whites [of other houses] as the answer.''
The town would continue to develop to become the heart of the Mackenzie Country, he believed, pointing out new subdivisions and development.
''Twizel is a town in its own right,'' he said.