The Avanti Group

Byron Bay’s hippies and actors priced out of Australia’s new rich-list playground

Helen Sali, wife of former Swisse vitamin company chief Radek Sali, set a NSW North Coast hinterland house price record this week when she took the keys to the River Hawk Ranch in Brunswick Heads for $18.5 million.

It tops the region’s hinterland record set just six months ago at $14.1 million in Coorabell by fitness queen Lorna Jane Clarkson, and a more recent $14 million sale of the Brooklet home of North Coast property developer Bart Elias to local muso and Revolution Tech boss Kurt Rettenmeier and his entrepreneur wife Leah.

Meanwhile, luxury acreage in Possum Creek, called Longwood, has hit the market for more than $30 million, which, if sold at that level, would make it the state’s most expensive house sold outside of Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

What’s more, Pacifico selling agent Christian Sergiacomi says he has two more listings set to hit the market in coming months for more than $30 million.

Far from being a mecca for hippies and Hollywood stars, Byron Bay is increasingly only affordable to the ultra-wealthy.

Good-bye, Olivia Newton-John, and hello billionaire Andrew Forrest, who in recent weeks bought her iconic luxury wellness centre Gaia Retreat for $30 million.

Wategos Beach has established itself as the area’s best address after Rip Curl co-founder Brian Singer bought a house for $22 million (sight unseen), making him a near neighbour to the likes of media boss Antony “The Cat” Catalano, Deke Miskin, F45 co-founder Adam Gilchrist, art collector Steve Nasteski and AfterPay’s Anthony Eisen.

The most recent arrival in town is medicinal cannabis businessman Matt Cantelo, who this week settled on a mid-century style house for $5.6 million (purchased in the Doobie Investments company name) as a getaway from his $20 million Vaucluse home.

But the really big money is not limited to Wategos, says Byron Bay Real Estate’s Liam Annesley. “They want privacy and space up in the hinterland or on the coast out of town.”

Businessman Ami Weinstock and his wife Helen are a case in point. The Vaucluse-based couple bought 118 hectares early last year for $2.53 million from a company solely owned by cattle farmer Mark Menegazzo, son of the late Stanbroke Group cattle king Peter Menegazzo, and are about to lodge plans for a Bruce Stafford-designed family compound on South Ballina Beach with room for their five children and four grandsons.

“We’re effectively luring the family away to holiday together,” Mr Weinstock says.

However, a 40-hectare portion with 500 metres of private beachfront has been carved off by the Weinstocks and is for sale through Avanti Group’s Lachlan Harris and The Agency’s Ben Collier for more than $10 million to like-minded buyers who want to build their own holiday home.

“The Weinstock land is 20 minutes from the airport at Ballina but also 20 minutes from Newrybar,” Mr Harris says.

He says the push for secluded luxury in a pristine natural environment is, in large part, a response to COVID-19, and fuelling prices is the appeal it holds not only to wealthy Sydneysiders but also buyers from Melbourne and Queensland.

The result puts North Coast house prices among the highest in the country, with Domain Data showing Byron Bay’s values soared 34.8 per cent in the year to September to a median of $1.5 million, marginally higher than Sydney’s $1.49 million.

In the nearby local government areas of Bellingen and Ballina, values have jumped even higher, rising 38 per cent and 32.4 per cent, respectively.

“After the 1980s there was a bit of a battle between the Northern Beaches and Byron Bay markets because a lot of those Sydneysiders moved here at the time, but as air travel and internet access have improved since then the North Coast has just boomed to the point that, in the past year, prices here are making the Northern Beaches look cheap,” Mr Annesley says.

Written by Lucy Macken PRESTIGE PROPERTY REPORTER NOV 7, 2021

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