Good things take time.

Mt Cardrona Station co-owner Chris Morton quips the slogan – made popular by the Mainland Cheese television advertisements – could apply to his own $650 million development above the Cardrona Valley.

He and co-director Andrew Spencer have owned the 400ha property since 2006 with a dream to establish an alpine village.

It had taken longer than envisaged – there were various iterations of design and planning, a lengthy council process and the 2010 financial crash when it was put on the backburner.

Land sales started last year – there were plans to develop 400 lots over the next decade – and those first “neighbourhoods” attracted buyers from around New Zealand and Australia.

The next neighbourhood for sale, called The Ridges, will be sold in three releases, all bearing the name of prominent Cardrona Valley founders and pioneers.

Mr Morton is the Auckland-based director and owner of Morton Property Group and an experienced civil engineer.

The group was one of two large shareholders that developed a 600-lot subdivision at Omaha Beach between 1999 and 2007, one of New Zealand’s largest major developments of beach-front property at that time.

Mr Morton has a strong attachment to the outdoors. He has been skiing since 1965 and, in his younger years, most of his time was spent on the water.

Tramping the Copland Track from the Hermitage at Aoraki/Mt Cook, across the Main Divide to the West Coast in the early 2000s started what he described as a 17-year odyssey in the mountains.

His family had a holiday home at Millbrook Resort for 26 years, so he spent a lot of time in the South Island high country, particularly around Queenstown and Wanaka.

He saw the benefit of a master plan development with land and some amenities; at Omaha, the attraction was a golf course and water. At Mount Cardrona, it was skiing, mountain-biking and walking.

Buying a section in the development came with an exclusive right to roam the station with private access to 371ha of land surrounding the village that would never be developed, and included use of 30km of hiking and biking trails.

Resort-style facilities available include all-day dining and workspaces, meeting rooms, hot pools, a gym and an indoor swimming pool.

Mr Morton’s involvement with Millbrook led plans to establish a golf course at the property but a survey showed skiing was the prime driver for those visiting the area.

So he gave it more thought and combined with the growth of mountain biking, something he himself had become very keen on, the idea of a golf course was ditched.

Asked whether he ever felt like pulling the plug on the development, given the time it had taken, Mr Morton said he was used to “hanging on and holding on to a dream”.

The vision was still relevant – “it always has been” – and it was a matter of waiting until the market came towards the pair. Mountain biking was a good example of that, he said.
Covid-19 had forced people to prioritise lifestyle higher than they possibly had previously and he believed the impact of the pandemic would mean more people would choose to buy at Mt Cardrona Station than before it hit.

Communications had also enabled people to live and work from more remote locations.

He and Mr Spencer felt they were continuing the vision created by Cardrona farmer and entrepreneur John Lee who developed Cardrona ski field and Snow Farm, to breathe life into what was then a sleepy valley.

The pair worked with the council on the provision of a Cardrona Valley wastewater treatment plant which benefited not only their development but the whole valley.

That had been a very complex but successful project, he said.