Hidden in the Hauraki Gulf is a smattering of small islands, no bigger than 28 hectares, that have been owned privately by lucky Kiwi families for generations. In one spot in Kawau Bay it’s almost like Auckland’s own Bay of Islands.
Thomas Clarkson’s family has owned Takangaroa Island, near the Mahurangi Peninsula in north Auckland, since his father bought it in the 1920s for £150.
In today’s money, that’s about $17,000.
The island is one of the few in the area that is connected to the power grid.
His father was an electrical engineer who got a power transformer installed on the island and hooked it into the cable that supplies nearby Kawau Island.
Clarkson says that he and his two sisters, and their families, visit the island bach as often as they can and have no intention of ever selling it.
They recently helicoptered in mod cons including a new fridge and washing machine.
He says life on the island is “magic”, with long summer days spent fishing.
However, it can get badly hit by storms when there’s a north-easterly wind, including one in 2016 that saw the family boat smashed on the rocks.
Most of the private islands in the gulf have been passed down through generations and rarely come up for sale, but one has been listed on the market.
The Vivian family are selling Motuketekete Island, which is also near Mahurangi.
Listing agent and former government minister Paula Bennett said such sales were so rare there were no recent purchases to benchmark from.
“The honest answer is that we really don’t know what its worth, but we’ve had lots of interest.”
The rateable value is $5.4 million, but Bennett expects it to go for at least double that.
Christchurch merchant Thomas Vivian bought it in 1907 for £190, around $37,400 in today’s money, and it has remained in the family since.
“It’s only 15 minutes from the city by helicopter, and less than an hour by boat – you could spend that sitting in traffic on a commute,” Bennett said.
The island has a garage that has been converted into a bach.
Bennett said there used to be a homestead there, but it was accidentally burnt down during a “fabulous party” decades ago.
She said the island “needed some love”.
She hoped that someone with a “conservation bent” would cut down the pines and restore it to native bush, and not turn it into a resort.
Another nearby isle, Rabbit Island, is one of the few that has its own jetty, complete with a tiki head and sign welcoming visitors and warning all others to keep off.
It was purchased in 1976 by the Mayor of Newmarket, David Lumsden, for $43,500 according to newspaper clippings from the time.
Today the land record shows his wife “mayoress” Sydney Lumsden and the family trust as the owner.
The pair made their money selling Persian rugs in a store called the Khyber Pass Bazaar.