Chris Gollins says Wairarapa will keep on growing. PHOTO/PAM GRAHAM

PAM GRAHAM
pam.graham@age.co.nz

Chris Gollins formally opens Gollins Commercial real estate today, having already done $30 million of commercial real estate deals in Wairarapa and hinting there are some chunky ones to come.

He sold the Postie Plus in Queen St, did the Big Save Furniture deal, and says the private investors from the UK he put into the White Swan in Greytown are keen on investing more in New Zealand tourism assets.

He lives in Plimmerton but bought a house in Essex St in Masterton in November so he and his wife can spend part of the week here.

Masterton is familiar turf as he lived here from 1957 to 1960 when his dad worked for Mobil and he started at Lansdowne School.

Gollins was a journalist during the glory years when Radio Avon in Christchurch was a place a lot of good journalists learnt their trade and left university to work in a senior news role at Radio Windy in Wellington.

In that job he came across Sir Robert Jones and went to work for him as a property manager. He then spent many years at Colliers before starting Gollins Commercial in 2016.

He says commercial real estate is like journalism. You have to dig for the good stories and keep going back to people. And sometimes it is people from the outside that break a situation open.

The story he tells about the development of the mega centre in Porirua has lessons for Wairarapa, he says.

“Where we differ to a normal real estate agency is we try to initiate. We find people and persuade them.

“That is what I had to do in Porirua – I had to get Harvey Norman to agree to be in Porirua.”

He said he approached the family that owned Big Save furniture three years ago and tried to persuade them to come to Wairarapa and they said no.

“They got sick of me asking and last year they said ‘find me a site and we’ll come’, which we did.”

He says Porirua is now full, from a commercial real estate perspective, but there is plenty of land in Wairarapa.

“I see Wairarapa now as Porirua was in the 1980s. It has huge potential.”

So Gollins Commercial has opened a Masterton office and Lawrence Cheetham is based in it.

Their website tells the Wairarapa growth story, listing eight reasons why to invest in the region.

The first is that negotiations are under way for Sir Peter Jackson to locate his entire personal collection of World War I planes and vehicles to Hood Aerodrome. This will draw considerable additional investment, the firm says.

Second is film director James Cameron. He now owns 13 properties totalling 1500ha, an organic food store and cafe in Greytown, a walnut orchard in Carterton, a hemp farm producing cooking oil and an organic farm on the outskirts of Masterton. The Cameron family’s neighbour is Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and her husband Sir David Gascoigne.

Other reasons to buy in Wairarapa are lifestyle, Wellington people moving over, house prices, weather, viticulture and “sophistication”.

“What we are about is bringing investment in and bringing in businesses to Wairarapa and persuading people there is a good population base here and a good workforce here and a lot of people commuting to Wellington who would probably like to work in Wairarapa,” he says.

He says sometimes locals can’t see the “growth story” because they’ve known properties all their lives, but the Wairarapa growth story is resonating with investors from around New Zealand and from offshore.

With the exception of developer Steve Pilbrow, all the buyers he has lined up for commercial deals in Wairarapa have been from elsewhere in New Zealand, China, New Caledonia or the UK.

He says Wairarapa has heaps of potential.

“In terms of hospitality and tourism I think that is really just beginning to pick up.”

He says the vineyard experience in Wairarapa is still essentially a cellar door one and there is potential for destination restaurants at vineyards.

He cites Elephant Hill and Craggy Range in Hawke’s Bay as examples of what could happen in Wairarapa in terms of vineyard destinations.

He also says there is a gap in mid-to-higher range hotel accommodation sector.

Wharekauhau Lodge was probably the only acknowledged destination to “fly someone in a helicopter for lunch to” but over time there could be more.

Bottom line — this is a good place to do business.