A Russian billionaire’s workers are helping members of a Maori tribe in northern New Zealand plan a new meeting house to replace the one that was lost in a devastating fire two years ago, a report said.
Staff working for oligarch Alexander Abramov are providing assistance for the rebuilding of the Ngatiwai tribe’s Te Uri o Hikihiki communal house, the New Zealand Herald said.
The meeting house, or wharenui, is located at Mokau Marae, north of Whangarei, the northernmost city in the country.
Clive Stone, resource consent manager of the tangata whenua, said he had been working in a team to plan the new building since the fire on November 8, 2013, the report said.
The area is about 5 km north of Abramov’s $50 million-plus Helena Bay luxury lodge, which is now being finished and thought to be New Zealand’s most expensive new residential project, with a main house and three separate beachfront residences, the Herald said.
“The assistance we have received from Helena Bay Holdings has made our job a lot easier, providing machinery, advice about how we clean up the site and also with our future projects, ” Stone said at a meeting in the former Helena Bay farmhouse, now being used for staff accommodations and an office. “We’ve just completed the planning but it hasn’t been cheap.”
Help in drafting tender documents was extremely useful for the preparation of paperwork so suppliers could bid for the work and the board could seek the best bid, he said, according to the Herald.
Ngatiwai Trust Board chairman Hayden Edmonds said Helena Bay’s help had been invaluable.
Helena Bay Holdings managing director Christopher Seel said no questions were asked when he realized Ngatiwai needed expertise in terms of equipment and skills from his big building site where a number of tower cranes were working for months, the report said.
“We were glad to help. The key thing was getting it all cleaned up so it wasn’t a constant reminder of the negative and allowing everyone to focus on the future and the new wharenui and wharekai which was a shell. There is now a plan for completion, ” he said, according to the Herald.
Mr Seel said work was under way to prepare to run Helena Bay as a luxury lodge and every effort was being made to include staff of Ngatiwai descent, the report said.
Reports two years ago said the fire was believed to have been started by children aged 3 and 6 playing with a lighter. The blaze caused several hundred thousand dollars worth of damage but no loss of life, the Herald said.
Abramov, a partner of billionaire Roman Abramovich in the steel company Evraz, was ranked #387 among the world’s top billionaires with a net worth of about $4 billion as of January 2015, according to Forbes.