Living The Life – Just out of Taupo


Courtesy of NZ Today Magazine.

On a high hill up among the clouds and amongst the sheep and pasture you look below to mighty lake Taupo that is as flat as glass after today’s heavy rain. The dewy green grass is sticking to my jandals and off in the distance in one direction, is the start of the Desert Road and Rotorua in the other. The clouds open up just enough for developer Mark Prujean’s big grin to appear as we look out on million dollar views from Savannah Bay — high country estate. From every degree there is something to make you inhale a little bit more of that country air. “I told you so. Everyone who actually comes up to have a look can’t believe the view. Can’t believe the place we have up here. Even through those clouds,” says Prujean.

He and his wife Leanne, along with two other couples Ross and Sandy Christensen and Shane and Denise Le Prou are the force behind Savannah Bay. They believe it is the best piece of land in the Lake Taupo region and have turned a 1000-acre existing farm into a place where people looking for a rural lifestyle can find their own little oasis. It’s a development process of sorts, but different to subdivisions and property as we know it. Prujean refers to the place as somewhere which holds the “ten acre blocks of the future”.

The Le Prou’s had worked on other property projects in the Lake Taupo region and they pitched the idea to the other two couples. Shane Le Prou had thought of a way that people could experience all the good bits of rural life without having to give up all their spare time crutching sheep and fixing fences. Prujean takes me to the Le Prou’s for a chat. Shane seems like the quintessential kiwi farmer.

Personal oasis

“To be fair, everybody’s big buzz is to live on their own little rural oasis, but when they actually do it they discover that really they’re just buying themselves a job,” says Shane “You need a set of yards, because you have to run sheep — if you don’t run sheep you have to spray Ragwort. So everyone wants a ten acre block but once they’ve been there three years they say ‘bugger this, our weekends and spare time are all tied up.’” The trick to Savannah Bay is that it will still be a farm. It will still run as a farm, with a farmer leasing the land. The property will also be divided into eleven residential enclaves with each enclave being situated in different locations with different views, vistas and overall feels. The 11 enclaves give a feeling of community but also the luxury of space and not having anyone look over you.

In total, there are 86 different sections scattered across the high country land that is Savannah Bay. All 86 owners of the sections will have their own sizeable piece of land, a 1/86th share of the farm, centralised sewage, power, telephone and broadband Internet via satellite, and access to the whole farm. This way they can have horses running, motorbikes, access to walking tracks, and all the benefits that rural life entail. Yet they don’t have to work the land and look after the stock. It took me a while to get my head around the philosophy of it all, but Prujean explains it most easily by saying “Farm Park.” It’s an impressive concept, and much more appealing than your standard 10-acre block.

“People can have part ownership, the kids can do whatever kids do on a farm — their horses or ponies can be there — so that gives them 2000-3000 square metres of private land, and you get everything you want from a farm. And there’s sealed roads, there’s underpasses for the stock to go under the roads, you can still have a BMW and not get any sheep shit on it if you like, if that’s what you’re into,” laughs Le Prou. Living rurally, yet in a high growth area, only 15 minutes from the Taupo CBD — beside a lake like no other in the North Island — combined with the views make for a piece of land which is pretty unique. And that’s why Le Prou thinks it will work. Just down the road in Kinloch, the Jack Nicklaus golf course has been in development and due to open in March. Since the announcement of this prestigious golf course, development in Kinloch took off like a rocket, including sub-divisions in the area. But Savannah Bay has a real point of difference to your standard sub-division, with its enclaves, communinity feel and the fact that it is surrounded by 2000 acres of conservation estates with corridors of bush on both sides.

Set in paradise

This also means that the whole surrounding bay is a conservation estate, DOC managed and protected. So no other development can be made that would block those magnificent views. Essentially a family doesn’t have to be ludicrously wealthy to be part of the Savannah Bay development. Many of the workers, engineers, project concept artists and friends of the developers have already bought into the project.  Marketing manager Andrew Montgomerie says his job is an easy task once he gets people to just have a look around up there.

“On a good day your mouth will open. You can’t believe you’re up there. This particular property is probably the most magnificent one that you’ll ever see in this region. It’s an untouched piece that’s been sitting there but no-one’s known about it because of it’s elevation. The view it commands is looking over the entirety of Lake Taupo. That’s a big lake; it’s the size of Singapore, and northward, to Rotorua and Mt. Edgecombe, and to the mountain. There has been lots of positive interest.” It’s a two-year plan before people are living up there. They’re trying to have low impact — they want it to be clean and green and free of any kind of blots on the skyline. Because they haven’t just cut the massive block of land into a series of ten acre blocks the Taupo City Council are right behind them and refer to Savannah Bay as a ‘property of the future’.

For Savannah Bay properties sold privately, the commission that a real estate agent would have got will be donated directly to Variety, The Children’s Charity. Taupo is being internationally recognised more and more. It has a reputation for adventure — skydiving, jet boating, bungy jumping — there are the internationally renowned golf courses like Wairakei and Jack Nicklaus’ new addition, the Huka Lodge and The Falls, and it can only increase with the addition of the A1 Grand Prix and the possibility of it being a permanent fixture. It’s central, it’s by the lake, it’s near the mountains and Taupo, the town, has a lot to offer.

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