Former town relocation site placed on the market for sale
The swathe of bare land once identified as the relocation site for the hydro’ dam township of Twizel has been placed on
the market for sale.
The 19.3 hectare site at Lake Pukaki in South Canterbury is the only land within the Mackenzie District Plan with zoning
allowing for residential subdivision and commercial business operations.
The land – which overlooks Lake Pukaki and State Highway 8 – is some 14 kilometres north of Twizel, and is being
marketed for sale by auction on September 5. Real estate agency Bayleys Canterbury is coordinating the auction.
Salesperson John McPhail said the Lake Pukaki land was a piece of South Canterbury history – for famously never
achieving the development potential which town planners had envisaged more than half a century ago.
Twizel was established in the late 1960s to house works and plant needed to construct the Upper Waitaki hydro power and
dam system. The initial life expectancy of the township was 15 years, at which stage the town planning model outlined
moving the entire village to the Lake Pukaki site now being sold.
At the peak of dam construction in 1976 there were 1224 family homes in Twizel and approximately 800 single men’s cabins
– supporting a total population of some 5000 people. The upper Waitaki project ended in 1986 but a change to Government
policy in the intervening years, combined with vociferous lobbying by the Twizel ‘locals’, meant the town was never
relocated… and the Lake Pukaki site was consequently never commissioned into its scheduled potential.
“The property is now classified as the Pukaki Village Zone – a special purpose zone established under the Mackenzie
District Council District Plan. This zoning allows for a tourist and holiday village with a maximum capacity of 1000
people,” Mr McPhail said.
“Under the permitted uses of this zoning are a range of activities – including visitor accommodation, residential
development, entertainment or recreational buildings and landscaping, utility infrastructure, and aviation services.
“The purpose off the Pukaki Village Zone is to allow commercial development, while at the same time protecting and
enhancing the visual amenities of the area.”
Mr McPhail said the zoning restricted building coverage to a maximum of 10 percent of the 19.3 hectares, and any
potential structures on the land had to be designed and built to have minimal impact on the surrounding landscape and
In the late 2000s, Mackenzie District Council applied to have the land rezoned under a Landscape Protection Area
classification – in line with surrounding topography. However, an Environment Court ruling in 2010 deemed that the
Pukaki Village Zoning remain intact – leaving the way open for a commercial development to proceed.
“A change to the Mackenzie District Plan gave greater protection to the landscape values of the Mackenzie basin from
both commercial or residential subdivision. As a result, consent for any further subdivision or development within the
basin has now become much more restrictive and difficult to obtain,” Mr McPhail said.
“Aside from the lakeside location and unrestricted views across to Aoraki Mount Cook, the value of this land lies in the
rarity of its zoning classification. There simply isn’t anything else like it in the locality.”
Mr McPhail predicted the land would most likely be bought by an entrepreneur with visions for a tourism or
hospitality-based development - such as boutique high-end lodge to service travelers visiting Mount Cook or partaking of
recreational activities in the area.
“Figures from Tourism New Zealand show an increasing trend of wealthy North American, Australian and European visitors
partaking of sports and recreation-based eco’ tourism activities – most notably off-road mountain biking, fishing and
hunting, lake and white water kayaking, and tramping.
“With the Lake Pukaki location sitting in the middle of the Mackenzie Basin and surrounded by lakes and mountains, any
potential commercial accommodation provider would be looking at promoting the facility as a base for exploring the
The 19.3 hectare Lake Pukaki site has a 2012 ratable valuation of $1.9 million. Mr McPhail said that until the auction
was held in September, it would be near-impossible to assess what value potential buyers would place on the land, as it
had multiple development opportunities – each with varying building costs and subsequent returns.