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Developer has big plans for Martinborough

Entrepreneur and hotel owner Murray Cole believes he is on the cusp of realising a 12-year dream to turn Martinborough into the “Tuscany of the South Pacific.”

Inspired more than a decade ago by a Sydney Morning Herald journalist describing the area as “a slice of Tuscany”, Cole has bought the 183-hectare Rapaki Farm with the intention of developing it into an estate of 39 lifestyle blocks 3km from the village.

He says Martinborough’s reputation is crying out to be repositioned and that something is “wrong” when two hectares on the outskirts of Queenstown can fetch $3.65 million while local real estate agents advise listing four-hectare lifestyle lots in Martinborough at $800,000 a pop.

“Surely we are worth at least half of Queenstown?” he said.

“We don’t have an international airport – although we do have one only an hour away; and while we don’t have a lake, we do have a wine village.”

Consequently, when Rapaki Farm went on the market two years ago, Cole snapped it up as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

Last November, Cole – who has helped to run the family-owned and operated Martinborough Hotel for the past 12 years – gained approval from South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] to subdivide the property, which will be subject to title once the sections are listed.

Until now, he has held off doing anything with the land and rebuffed offers – despite “every real estate agent chasing him” – because he doesn’t want a “cookie-cutter” approach.

“I want to come at it differently, to lift Martinborough and this lifestyle” and ultimately elevate the status and prosperity of the wider region, Cole said. The first of five development stages of the land on Shooting Butts Road, about two minutes’ drive from Martinborough Square and adjacent to Te Muna Rd vineyards and the back of the Martinborough Golf Course, will involve building roads to allow access to the 11 lots to go on the market next spring.

The intention is to sell the sections for $1.2 million each, with buyers having the option to build houses that have been designed by architect and former ‘Grand Designs’ presenter Chris Moller, who has been hired as a consultant.

A land covenant will require any other house designs to be approved by Moller in order to maintain the development’s “unique look”, with the aim of creating an upmarket non-gated “haven”, suitable for a luxury lodge.

The project will be focused on complementing and enhancing the natural landscape, Cole said, with the well-established Rapaki Hillside Walk – which has been named as one of the top 10 leisure walks in New Zealand – being incorporated into the development’s design.

Although the estate has yet to be named, Cole is in consultation with the SWDC Māori Standing Committee to use the name “Rapaki”.

In response to Times-Age questions about the project, SWDC planning and environment group manager Russell O’Leary noted that “the South Wairarapa District continues to experience a range of related growth, and we welcome new people into parts of our wonderful district”.

“The resource consent granted in October 2023 was for a variation to the original subdivision consent for 39 rural lots. This approved the staging of the development across five stages instead of two as originally proposed. There are no changes to the number of lots proposed or layout for the rural development.

“Under the Proposed Wairarapa Combined District Plan, which is now in effect for rural subdivision, lots are required to have a minimum of 40 hectares for subdivision purposes.”


  1. This smells very Fishy ? Of course 39 rural lots 🙄 come on think 🤔 the amount of rates it generates and council doesn’t have to supply any resources great 👍. Money for jam 🙄. The CEO MANAGERS AND OFFICERS would have kept this project under wrap then when it suits them come up with this plan 😉 to help cover the costs of urban rate payers water 💧 and sewerage problems 😉. Screw the rural rate payers 100% Councils are out of control and New law’s are needed.

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