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