$100m+ deal: Fletcher Living to buy 6.2ha of Ellerslie racecourse land for 370 homes

Fletcher Building’s residential development division has struck a deal to buy 6.2ha of Auckland Thoroughbred Racing’s Ellerslie land and sought Government fast-track consent for hundreds of homes there.

A joint statement today from Auckland Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Paul Wilcox and Fletcher Living chief executive Steve Evans announced the agreement but no price was put on the possible sale, understood to be $100 million-plus.

The sale is subject to Overseas Investment Office approval.

Apartments, duplexes, terraced and detached houses are planned beside the main track where racing will continue, the statement said.

Last July, the Herald reported that the land would be sold and was estimated to be worth more than $100 million.

Wilcox said today: “As part of our club’s plans to futureproof the sport of racing, we are currently upgrading our track at Ellerslie to an international-standard StrathAyr surface.

“However, with that kind of surface unsuitable for jumps racing, that type of racing will no longer be held at Ellerslie and The Hill is, therefore, surplus to our requirements. The proposed Fletcher Living development will provide the community with better connections to surrounding streets and public transport links.”

Evans said the company was planning to build 370 residences alongside the horse racing track on land where steeplechase racing was previously held. One block would be for Fletcher’s new retirement business, Vivid Living, he said.

Fletcher has applied for its plans to be considered under the Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act, established to speed up consenting processes for projects considered to support recovery from the economic and social impacts of the pandemic.

David Parker, Minister for the Environment, confirmed that The Hill development meets the criteria and should therefore be referred for consideration by an expert consenting panel.

A decision is yet to be reached.

Evans said Fletcher Living’s offer was conditional on Overseas Investment Office approval because parent Fletcher Building has widely-held ownership, including many overseas funds.

“We’d expect that in the next quarter or so.”

The land is off Ladies Mile and in the Peach Pde/Derby Downs Pl vicinity.

Three apartment buildings of up to seven levels are planned to front Ladies Mile. Evans said these would be set back from the street because mature pohutukawa would be kept.

A fourth apartment block at track level would be for Vivid Living residents and reach five to six levels.

A new tunnel would be built from Derby Downs Pl to the centre of the race track, Evans said, and that project was part of the track upgrade now underway, expected to take 18 months.

Last July, the Herald reported that the impending sale of the hill and the end of jumps-racing had angered some.

But barely 10 races had been run over the hill per season and the sale would be a financial boon for Auckland Thoroughbred Racing, says racing editor Michael Guerin.

Wilcox said then that the business would consult the jumps-racing community about where the Great Northern Steeplechase and Great Northern Hurdles will be held in the future. Those are Auckland’s two most famous jumping races and hosted at Ellerslie in September.

All racing was due to pause at Ellerslie in March this year for the new StrathAyr turf to be laid, but Wilcox said last July he expected it will be reopened by October 2023.

“So the racing committee of the new ATR have some conversations to have, over where we hold our major meetings while the StrathAyr goes in,” Wilcox said last July.

Today’s statement said Auckland Thoroughbred Racing and Fletcher Living would talk to local residents and retailers about the plans.

The parties were to “facilitate an open dialogue and ensure the programme creates great outcomes for the local community”.

Evans said Fletcher Living would complete around 800 homes in Auckland and Christchurch in the year to June 30, 2022. The Ellerslie housing scheme was aimed to be finished by around 2028, depending on when regulatory approvals were granted.

The land was not zoned for housing, he said, but a Plan Change was not needed to rezone it under the fast-tracking legislation.

Across at the Auckland Trotting Club’s Alexandra Park, hundreds of apartments have been built in blocks beside that track.

But not all went well with plans for around 246 units. Disputes over contracts, one major builder leaving part-way through and having to be replaced with another and legal disputes dogged that project which ran at least two years behind the original programme.

Fletcher shares have been trading around $6.38, giving it a market cap of $5 billion.

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