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A Chi­nese buyer has picked up South Waikato’s iconic Oko­roire Hot Springs Ho­tel.

Owner Hugh Rhodes said the long- stand­ing fam­ily busi­ness, con­sist­ing of the 1880s vin­tage ho­tel which can sleep up to 60 guests and a nine-hole golf course, will of­fi­cially be handed over to Kingstown Vol­cano Springs Lim­ited on Au­gust 15.

The fam­ily busi­ness was passed onto Rhodes about 10 years ago.

For fam­ily rea­sons the 58-year old de­cided to put all 72 acres on the mar­ket.

The sale of the prop­erty, which went for around $ 3.3 mil­lion, be­gan eight months ago but gained Over­seas In­vest­ment Of­fice ap­proval only on July 24, he said.

Rhodes said that while they have made many changes, the struc­ture of the fa­cil­ity has never changed.

‘‘We never changed the char­ac­ter of it, it’s an old English ho­tel it’s a part of New Zealand her­itage and to change it would be fi­nan­cial sui­cide,’’ he said.

In pass­ing on a piece of fam­ily his­tory, he said he had faith in the new for­eign own­ers. South Waikato News un­der­stands the com­pany plans on turn­ing the fa­cil­ity into a bou­tique spa ho­tel.

‘‘I think they’ll do a great job, they have done it to 38 other lo­ca­tions in the coun­try,’’ Rhodes said.

The sale closely fol­lows ap­proval for Lochin­ver Sta­tion near Taupo to be sold which has sparked fierce pre-elec­tion de­bate on the amount of New Zealand farm­land sold to over­seas own­ers.

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers is the lat­est to wade in af­ter op­po­si­tion from Con­ser­va­tive Party leader Colin Craig, NZ First leader Win­ston Peters and Labour leader David Cun­liffe to Shang­hai Pengxin sign­ing up to buy the 13,800ha sta­tion for $70 mil­lion.

But de­spite the heated de­bate of for­eign own­er­ship, Rhodes be­lieves the bad press is ‘‘ridicu­lous’’.

Rhodes said ‘‘ob­vi­ous’’ ap­proval of for­eign own­er­ship led on to his be­lief the in­vest­ment will do won­ders for the district.

Not only will it pro­vide em­ploy­ment but also in­creased tourism and boosted eco­nomic growth, Rhodes said.

South Waikato mayor Neil Sin­clair has been in­volved with the ho­tel for a ‘‘long time’’ and said the Chi­nese or­gan­i­sa­tion that pur­chased it had many other bou­tique spa ho­tels around the coun­try.

He said the com­pany told him it had looked at sur­round­ing ar­eas but chose the South Waikato be­cause of its scenic lo­ca­tion.

For­eign own­er­ship can be­come too ‘‘emo­tional’’ for some peo­ple, he said.

‘‘You can’t take the land away, that’s num­ber one.’’

He said it was cer­tainly not a new con­cept for this district.

‘‘Here in the South Waikato we have had for­eign own­er­ship of farms for the past 40 years, so we have a long, long record of for­eign own­er­ship.’’

He said the district needed in­vest­ment if it was to avoid be­ing ‘‘ taken over’’ in the eco­nomic stakes.

‘‘We lack high qual­ity ac­com­mo­da­tion and peo­ple visit us then move on to Ro­torua and Taupo.’’

He said he hoped the new own­ers kept the golf course and spa fa­cil­i­ties go­ing.

‘‘I’m ex­cited that this ho­tel will be the start of peo­ple recog­nis­ing you can stay in the South Waikato with­out un­pack­ing your suit­case ev­ery day.’’

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