De­vel­oper driven by land­scap­ing

Re­porter Mary Jo To­hill meets Al­lan Dip­pie, the man be­hind Wanaka’s largest de­vel­op­ment.

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS -

As the first sods turn at Three Parks, Al­lan Dip­pie, the man be­hind Wanaka’s big­gest de­vel­op­ment, can’t wait to get his hands dirty.

He may be a busi­ness mogul, who races a Porsche in his spare time, but scratch him, and you’ll still find the land­scaper that he started out as 30 years ago.

Dunedin-ite Dip­pie’s big pas­sion is not only how his projects progress, but how they will even­tu­ally look.

‘‘I do pay a lot of at­ten­tion to that, and I love jump­ing on ma­chin­ery – if the boys will let me.’’

If it’s a small Kub­ota trac­tor, he should be fine, be­cause that’s all he had, when he first went into the land­scap­ing busi­ness in 1985. He was to put it to good use, when he and his brother Martin bought Dunedin Gar­den Cen­tre, which orig­i­nally be­longed to the Ni­chol fam­ily, from their par­ents in 1987.

The rest as they say is his­tory, be­cause from then on what had be­come Ni­chol’s Gar­den Cen­tre ex­panded rapidly into both a land­scap­ing and gar­den­ing busi­ness, with out­lets in Dunedin, Ti­maru and Cromwell. His brother han­dled the re­tail and Dip­pie the land­scap­ing as­pect. Al­though they’ve both since be­come de­vel­op­ers, Martin Dip­pie as the owner of Mitre 10 Mega Dunedin, has stuck to sell­ing things, and Al­lan Dip­pie with cre­at­ing them, through his com­pany Wil­lowridge De­vel­op­ments.

Land­scap­ing has been a driver in Dip­pie’s de­vel­op­ments, for ex­am­ple, the Mead­ow­stone sub­di­vi­sion, his first in Wanaka, which was started in 1993 and is now well es­tab­lished. It’s much more dif­fi­cult do­ing de­vel­op­ments now, Dip­pie says, mainly be­cause of red tape – the bane of ev­ery de­vel­oper. Bu­reau­cracy and also the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis of 2007 stretched out the project to 12 years be­fore it could start.

‘‘You’ve got to have a ter­ri­ble lot of pa­tience, es­pe­cially since the Christchurch earthquakes with the new leg­is­la­tion. Now we spend more on re­ports than the phys­i­cal things, like pipes and roads. So you’ve got to be su­per pa­tient and tick a lot of boxes. There’s al­ways been a lot, but now there’s more.’’

Three Parks’ res­i­den­tial sec­tion is just one as­pect of the project, but there’s pres­sure to do a good job of the re­tail and recre­ational ar­eas as well.

With de­vel­op­ments in Dunedin, Clyde and Hawea as well as Wanaka, and fin­gers in many commercial pies, the en­thu­si­as­tic 50-year-old fa­ther of three has de­vel­oped sharp busi­ness acu­men – and a thick skin.

‘‘You’ve got to have a rea­son­ably thick hide. De­vel­oper’s are up there with used car sales men and lawyers – there’s the good, the bad and the ugly with us all.’’

But he hopes he’s not con­sid­ered one of the ugly ones, and that his com­pany has pro­ceeded with cau­tion on this project, so that Wanaka will re­main what it is, with the char­ac­ter of a lake­side vil­lage.

Dip­pie is con­fi­dent that Wanaka people don’t want the ‘‘casino’’ glam­our of Queen­stown, or fast-food chains.

‘‘People have said to me: ‘‘Don’t you dare build a McDon­alds’’, he laughs.

‘‘But it could come, be­cause in the end we do live in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety, and you can’t stop a McDon­ald’s any more than you can stop a fish and chip shop.’’

A big gar­den: Land­scaper turned de­vel­oper Al­lan Dip­pie will have plenty

of scope for his skills at his 100-plus hectare Three Parks project at Wanaka

over the next 20 years.

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