Billionaire's $40m NZ retreat taking shape

Alexander Abramov's mansion is at remote Helena Bay, south of the Bay of Islands. Photo / Greg Bowker
Alexander Abramov's mansion is at remote Helena Bay, south of the Bay of Islands. Photo / Greg Bowker
Roofs are going on New Zealand's biggest, most expensive new residential development, which could be finished next summer.

Four houses for Russian billionaire Alexander Abramov are rising at Northland's pristine Helena Bay.

Chris Seel, of project manager Northland Coastal Developments, said progress was excellent.

About 100 people have been working at the rural property, home to the lavish residences estimated to be worth $40 million-plus when finished.

Mr Seel said he was happy with all aspects of the job.

"We've had a good season. It wasn't wet enough to stop work on many occasions," he said.

Neutral-toned, asphalt shingle tiles are being laid on the roof of the main U-shaped house and the three huge residences nearer the beachfront. Windows are about to be fitted.

Concrete tilt-slab construction and in situ poured concrete walls were rejected in favour of masonry block walls. Further landscaping has been completed, after 150,000 native trees were planted some months ago.

Mr Abramov is understood to have visited during the year.

The property is south of the Bay of Islands, about 40 minutes from Whangarei, north of Whananaki, down a private winding driveway off the back road to Russell.

Roofing contractors, electricians, electronic data-cable specialists, carpenters, block layers, steel fixers, concrete layers and masonry specialists have been busy at the site for well over a year.

Mr Seel said his Northland Coastal Developments had 80 fulltime employees at the secure site and additional labour was being hired locally because it was the firm's policy.

Internal finishing, including plastering and painting, won't start until the structures are closed in with the roofs finished and windows installed.

No tiling, asphalting or paving has started around the houses, but a 233m-long coastal walkway to a pontoon with a jetty of about 13m at the southern end of the beach has been in place for some months.

That will enable Mr Abramov and guests to tie up a boat and mount deep-sea fishing expeditions.

The Department of Conservation originally opposed the resource consent application to build a concrete path across coastal rocks and a pontoon, saying it was unnecessary.

But Mr Abramov won, with a number of conditions.

Replica rocks were used building those elements, to make this aspect as discreet as possible.

Earlier this year, Mr Seel said the pontoon access way was designed and built by sculptors to mimic perfectly the natural rock formations and to sustain sea life to the same extent as natural rock - which is already evident.

As the wealthiest person on the NBR Rich List, Mr Abramov paid $15.9 million for the 214ha farm. The Abramov Family Trust committed to spend $250,000 to improve the quality of pasture, fencing, stockyards, troughs and service tracks.

Mr Abramov's application to the Overseas Investment Office said he would build a high-quality residence/lodge and ancillary buildings, which would be used by him and might also be made available on a commercial basis to wealthy domestic and international clientele".

"The Abramov Family Trust will improve the farming business by the conversion of the farming operation from stock fattening to stock breeding," the application said.

The numbers

$15.9m spent on 214ha farm by Abramov

$250,000 spent on improving the farm

$40m approximate value of finished mansion

100 people working on building

150,000 native trees planted in surrounding area

3 years spent on project so far.

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