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Natural Gas Discovery Fuels Lodge Sale

Media Release

Natural Gas Discovery Fuels Lodge Sale

The discovery of a natural gas phenomenon deep in the bush overlooking a remote New Zealand township has inadvertently sparked the sale of an established accommodation business in the region.

Murchison Lodge in the small township of Murchison midway between Nelson and Westport has been owned by husband and wife couple Merv and Shirley Bigden for the past nine years.

During that time, Merv has spent countless hours tramping through thick bush and natural rainforest in the area, trying to locate a mythical natural phenomenon…. a large pit-like enclave where brightly coloured flames of natural gas seep out from the ground like a geological bar-b-que.

Like many rural legends in small town New Zealand, stories of the flaming gas bush clearing were often spoken about in the Murchison pub by long-time locals harking back decades.

Merv eventually re-discovered the long-lost natural phenomenon in 2011, and since then has spent almost 18 months gaining the necessary consents required to host commercial groups to view the gas fuelled fire pit as a tourism attraction.

The Bigden’s eco’ tourism venture came to fruition in November 2012, and now Merv envisages making the Natural Flames Experience one off the biggest tourism attractions in the Nelson/Buller region.

However, development of the Natural Flames Experience means Merv and Shirley are now selling up their Murchison Lodge business. The lodge is being marketed for sale by Bayleys Nelson.

Murchison Lodge is a four-bedroom accommodation provider servicing the middle and upper-end markets – with nightly rates varying from $130 - $190 for a single room, and $155 - $215 for a double room. Three of the bedrooms have their own en-suites.

The Bigden’s currently operate the business on a seven month calendar – allowing Merv and Shirley to travel internationally during the quiet winter quarter. Dinners – prepared by Merv and Shirley - are served in addition to the accommodation rate.

The two-story lodge on 15.8 hectares of land has a substantial decking area, with adjoining access to a formed walking track along banks of the Buller River. The open-plan communal areas within the lodge feature a dining room and lounge designed around a radiant log burner which comes into its own during cold nights on the shoulder seasons.

In addition to the lodge accommodation, the property has an adjacent yet private two-bedroom owner’s/manager’s dwelling with its own kitchen and bathroom amenities, along with two car garaging. The business is being sold as a going concern – inclusive of a professionally designed website, and confirmed forward bookings.

In keeping with the lodge’s eco’-friendly self-sufficiency theme, small gardens surrounding the main dwelling are planted in an array of natural herbs, while a neighbouring paddock produces feed for free-range pigs and chickens who eventually end up on the lodge’s dinner and breakfast menus.

Bayleys Nelson salesperson Simon Barrett who is selling the property and business, said Murchison Lodge would suit hospitality operators looking for a lifestyle opportunity poised to benefit from the region’s growing ‘eco tourism sector. The lodge turns over more than $60,000 per annum.

“In line with the Government’s national bike trail strategy, several new cycling routes are being created in the Nelson/Buller region. These include re-establishing the old rail line south-west of Nelson into a cycling track, and creation of an off-road mountain biking bridleway linking Murchison and Mokihinui,” Mr Barrett said.

“The Murchison region is also renown as New Zealand’s white water rafting capital – with 16 different rapid-packed river locations within an hour’s drive of the town. For kyakers and rafters, that’s four days worth of runs.

“Added to this, and catering to the less active eco’ tourism tourist, the discovery of the natural gas flames by Merv though is a totally unique attraction anywhere in New Zealand, and is forecast to be one of the fastest growing tourism attractions in the region within 18 months.

The demographic visitor expected to book the Natural Flames Experience replicates the visitor type staying at the lodge – those officially termed as ‘free independent travelers’ who stay in New Zealand for a minimum of 10 days, prefer to stay in small locally-run lodges or B & Bs, and who are very environmentally conscious in the activities they partake of.

“While the Murchison Lodge and Natural Flames Experience businesses are complementary, the time and resourcing required by the gas flames tour means that operating the lodge simultaneously is simply impractical from a time constraint perspective – and consequently it is being sold.”

Mr Barrett said Murchison’s accommodation market was strategically segmented into different price points and experiences – ranging from budget backpackers and typical country hotel and motels, the middle-to-upper bracket occupied solely by Murchison Lodge, through to more upmarket trout fishing lodges for high-end clientele.

“In the lodge sector, there is little competition for the ambience and pricing delivered by Murchison Lodge. The lodge has a virtual monopoly stretching some 100 kilometres to Nelson or Blenheim in the north-west, and 60 kilometres toward Westport in the west.”

Piggybacking on the growth of eco’-tourism in the Nelson/Buller region, Murchison Lodge is now up for sale.


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