Auckland couple buy huge 67-room historic Hawke’s Bay mansion – sight unseen

Auckland couple buy huge 67-room historic Hawke’s Bay mansion – sight unseen

Erica and Rob Lauder of Devonport have bought the 124-year-old Oruawharo homestead in central Hawke’s Bay, sight unseen.

“We took a leap of faith,” Rob Lauder says, and it’s something of an understatement.

Lauder and his wife Erica have signed up to buy, sight unseen, Oruawharo, a 67-room mansion in central Hawke’s Bay. But it wasn’t what they set out to buy – they went looking online for a four-bedroom home in Napier.

Then Rob spotted the Bayleys listing for the Historic Places Category 1-listed property near Takapau on Trade Me, and passed it on to Erica, son Will and his partner Bianca Du Toit. Erica and Rob Lauder of Devonport, Auckland are about to become the new custodians of Oruawharo homestead, a historic Category 1-listed property in Central Hawke’s Bay. “We all laughed because we thought it was a joke,” says Erica. “I remember it was my birthday, and we loved it, but thought nothing more about it. But it turns out he wasn’t joking.”

Because Auckland was in lockdown, they asked two friends who lived in Masterton to go and have a look. “They said it looked like us,” says Rob.

The couple, who live in Devonport, already own a beautiful villa, which they have listed for sale . And they are not afraid of hard work. Rob is a former IT professional, currently working in property maintenance, and Erica is a GP working in Takapuna – she is also possibly the last GP still delivering babies . Oruawharo, built in 1879 from kauri, totara and rimu, has 10+ bedrooms and a grand ballroom. During World War I, a territorial army camp was established here, and it is said to be the birthplace of the lemon squeezer hat. In a touch of synchronicity, the current owners, Peter and Dianne Harris, also lived in Devonport before they took on the restoration of Oruawharo in 2000, when the homestead was empty and in danger of demolition.

Both couples have a love of old houses and history. “They were looking for someone who would feel about the house the way they felt,” Erica says. “We will just be custodians looking after it.”

And they know the work will never stop. But the Lauders would not be taking on the project without the partnership of Will and Bianca. Will is a builder and also a chef – he has been a head-chef in countries around the world. He and Bianca will run Vincent’s, the venue on site, which is used for weddings, corporate functions and other special occasions. Son Will Lauder and his partner Bianca Du Toit will be joining Erica and Rob Lauder to help run the property. High teas and a tour are also hosted in the house, so the younger couple will take care of those as well.

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