The beachfront property on Rarotonga is the former site of the planned Sheraton Hotel.
The beachfront property on Rarotonga is the former site of the planned Sheraton Hotel. NZH

The 'cursed' resort with mafia links for sale again

A PIECE of prime Cook Island real estate - with links to the mafia and believed to be cursed - is up for sale again.

The beachfront property on Rarotonga is the former site of the planned Sheraton Hotel, which now lays in a dilapidated, graffiti-ridden state on the islands southern side.

The property is well-known to tourists and locals alike who are either intrigued or scared by the site.

The hotel dates from a 1987 deal when the Cook Islands Government signed a $52 million contract with an Italian bank. The Italian Government insured the set-up, an Italian contractor started work but then went bust.

At the projects sod-turning ceremony, angry resident, More Rua, claiming to be the true resort landowner gatecrashed proceedings invoking a curse on the property before thrusting a spear into a rock bearing a project plaque.

The block split to the ground - an omen some took to signal the scheme's failure.

Auckland-based Mirage Group Ltd and Napier builder Herbert Construction NZ Ltd had plans to restore the property in 2014 but have now listed it on the market with Bayleys Real Estate.

But the property remains in poor condition. Graffiti still covers walls, room wiring has been torn and hoses are all that remain of air-conditioning units.

Any fittings which could be removed have long gone and the few which remain - immovable sunken baths, high-quality wash-basins - are chipped or smashed.

But Bayleys salesperson Philip Toogood says when complete, the property will be Rarotonga's first five-star resort with potential to accommodate up to 460 rooms, villas and apartments.

He expects strong interest from New Zealand, Fiji, the United States, and throughout Asia.

Although never completed, the original Sheraton buildings and structures remain largely sound and intact. The entire project was about 90 per cent complete when work stopped in the early 1990s.

The current owner has already completed plans for a luxury resort featuring stylish hotel rooms; over water bures and a lush tropical garden.

The new developer/investor will be free to make adjustments, or propose a completely new resort, as long as it remains a five-star product.

The current owner has already won approval for changes to the island's ring road which currently separates the buildings from the stunning beach. Approval has been given to re-route the road so that guests have unimpeded views and access to the 330 metre beachfront.

"This is a unique offer," he says. "It is unlikely there will be a second resort of this calibre and star rating in Rarotonga for a very long time, if ever."

"From the discussions I have already had with various government and local authorities in Rarotonga, it is clear there will be enormous support for the new developer/investor.

"The timing is right, and the market is ready. This will be very good for Rarotonga and very good for the South Pacific."

The site is being offered for sale by way of International Tender closing May 24, 2016.

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