The hills of Central Otago could soon be alive with happy, mellow people.
Flyers inviting residents of Central Otago to participate in a crowd-funded venture will arrive in letterboxes soon.
Called Happy Hills, the project aims to build an ecofriendly tourist village, therapeutic centre and sustainable farm on 1142ha in the Cairnmuir Mountains, alongside the shore of Lake Dunstan.
Project co-ordinator Nigel Murray said the aim was to purchase the land for about $4 million and invest about $6 million developing the venture.
To raise funds, the management team was offering shares to members of the public, with a discount offering for people living in the Central Otago and Lakes region.
‘‘Key for us is that we want to try to make it funded by the community — the Otago-Central Lakes community — so that the property is protected and improved and controlled by the community,’’ MrMurray said.
The idea was first conceived by Hana Fisherova, formerly of the Czech Republic, who has recently moved to Clyde.
When Mrs Fisherova arrived in New Zealand several years ago she noticed there were not the kind of therapeutic spas she was familiar with in Europe, where many cities and even small villages had spas.
She was interested in the site because it had four natural springs, which she thought would be good for a form of hydrotherapy called balneotherapy.
The land was owned by Lake Dunstan Pastoral Ltd, in which the majority of shares are owned by Russell Ibbotson and a small number owned by Neil North, who spent more than 10 years farming South African Boer goats on the land for meat.
He was part of the Happy Hills management team and would be site manager if the project commenced.
The spa project was ‘‘something a bit different — a bit new’’ for New Zealand.
The land had been for sale, but had been taken off the market to give Happy Hills an opportunity to raise money for the project before the end of June.
If the project was ‘‘part way down the track’’ this date could be extended, Mr North said.
The team had met Dunstan Hospital charge nurse Richard Klahn, who said as a private enterprise there might be some benefits, but it was different from the services offered at a hospital.
The concept sounded ‘‘like a brilliant idea’’ but was a very different stance on healthcare.
‘‘People are going to have to pay for it privately, basically’’.
The opportunity to ‘‘rest and recuperate in a lovely environment’’ was a nice idea, but Mr Klahn was keen to stress it was separate from the care provided in a hospital setting.
The team had met representatives of the Central Otago District Council (CODC), including Mayor Tim Cadogan.
‘‘It is always a pleasure to meet people who have vision and big new ideas for Central Otago,’’ Mr Cadogan said.
CODC planning manager David Campbell said because the site was in areas identified as being an outstanding natural landscape, a primary matter to be addressed was the visual effect of any proposed buildings.
‘‘Particular challenges would include locating any buildings and services [including access] so that landscape effects would be minimised and ensuring adequate levels of services, especially water and wastewater, can be provided.’’
Mr Murray said the aim was for all buildings to have a low visual impact and be sustainable.
There were also plans to establish a trust ‘‘that dispenses a proportion of the profits to the community’’.