A human being with a clear vision of what could be achieved, combined with singular determination to bring it to fruition, is an extraordinarily powerful combination.
On the west coast in the quiet farming district of Waiuku, just south of Auckland, there is an excellent example. Castaways Resort is nestled on the cliff tops of Karioitahi Beach, and offers some wonderful New Zealand experiences. Overlooking the Tasman Sea, it is just 50 minutes’ drive south-west of the Auckland CBD and 90 minutes north of Hamilton.
The man with the vision is Gavin Shine, who has a background in civil engineering, earthworks contracting, and dairy and beef cattle farming. He had also started and developed an engineering consulting business for three years, and built up a civil soils laboratory. In 2002 Mr Shine was ready for a change.
“I live in Waiuku and decided to get out of contracting and pursue other things. I wanted to get into a project orientated business with a hands-on design and build side to it. So sold my business and, as our family had expanded to four children, I took a year off to build us a new house.
“As it was being finished, I was approached to invest as a partner in a small café that had the basic approvals to develop into something bigger. After checking it out I quickly realised the concept had to be different to what was proposed if it was going to work well. The site had panoramic ocean views from every point. It needed to be more up-market to justify such a stunning site. The design and set-up had to be unique,” said Mr Shine.
“I also saw that this would be a great hands-on project where I could enjoy the design and development, while at the same time steering the business in the right direction. I would then bring in experts to run the hospitality side of things. After only a few weeks I bought my partner out and set about creating what I visualised Castaways should look like.
“I’d already done a sketch of the proposed development and had it painted by an artist up the road. I then went about obtaining the appropriate approvals.
“On the site at the time was a café on four hectares of leased land with rudimentary approval for a camping ground with cabins.
“Ten years later it would look pretty much like that original sketch I’d had drawn. We’ve since added a few extras but Castaways still retains the rugged west coast feel with a hint of luxury, which has always been the intention.”
Keen to bring his vision to reality, Mr Shine began construction work in September that same year, pulling the café apart and putting it back together in its new form. In October, Castaways Restaurant and Function Centre was ready for its grand opening.
By November the construction of the first chalet was underway. In the resort’s first full year of operation in 2005, 1050 beds were let and 22 weddings held. The restaurant and function venue entertained 12,000 guests.
In the same year, a new project was begun – a function building extension to add a storeroom, bar, freezers and office, and to upgrade the deck area. In October 2005, a manager/partner was appointed for the function centre to take the business to the next level and enable conferencing to start. The conference and wedding venue was upgraded and a new bar opened.
By December, 14 chalets were complete. “We devised a unique holiday chalet ownership system and sold the chalets for holiday accommodation, yet retained them for use by the resort,” said Mr Shine. “This system still works well for owners and the resort today. The sale of the chalets, along with business income, helps to finance our further development.”
A sales office was built where a function centre manager, wedding coordinator and conference sales person now work. And in May 2006, construction started on a new restaurant to provide a dedicated dining venue and dedicated function venue.
In November 2006, a lodge booking office was complete beneath the manager’s accommodation. On-site managers were appointed to the lodge and all management and bookings moved on-site. A makeover of the function/restaurant exterior was completed, including new schist walls.
In January 2007, partner/managers were appointed for a new restaurant, and Agave restaurant was opened.
In May 2007, construction of 10 new studio units was underway to meet the growing demand for accommodation. They were completed in January 2008.
Time to expand
By now, Castaways Resort was fast running out of land for future development. In March 2009 came the opportunity to purchase a good deal more, behind Castaways.
“We’d filled the four hectares we’d leased, so to do any more projects we needed more area,” said Mr Shine. “You don’t get many chances to buy neighbouring land so when the next door farmer agreed to sell 56 hectares of his, we went for it.
“As the land was adjacent to the existing Castaways Resort, we managed to get a resource consent that covered a wide range of activities including camping, day spa, weddings, plus conference and adventure activities. This has given us great scope to put a twist on things and come up with a unique day spa and glam camping set-up.”
In 2010, an adventure shed was constructed and adventure activities developed, such as archery and off-roading.
In November 2010, construction began on a new day spa, and in February 2012, Bersantai Day Spa was complete with an attached conference room. In April 2012, it opened for business.
Still, there was no slowdown in the pace of development and in June 2012, an outdoor bath and massage area was under construction. In November, it was open for use.
In the same month, concept development and design and build was underway for Glamcamping@Castaways. In September 2013, a prototype glam camping tent was complete and trial stays were underway.
In February 2014, three additional glam camp tents were under construction with an improved design – two on the coast and one up in the trees, complete with a suspended bath. By September, four glam camp tents were finished and being let out, complete with meals, transport and baths.
In February 2015, a glam camp village was underway, which includes accommodation for 48 guests, conferencing and event facilities, as well as an outdoor kitchen and bar.
Asked if he ever had doubts on ever completing such a large project, Mr Shine had a definite answer: “No, never. A big project is only a series of small projects, and they are easy. I knew it was going to work after we’d sold three or four chalets.”
Today, the glam camping village is nearing completion with the accommodation tents and conference marquees up, sewage in and the final touches being put on the outdoor kitchen and bar.
Accommodation at Castaways now comprises 15 chalets and 10 stylish studio units.
Each two-bedroom chalet comes with two split king beds and two private ensuites. All are fully self-contained with kitchen, dishwasher, microwave, fridge-freezer and laundry facilities. The ample deck space allows guests to admire impressive land and sea views from sunrise to sunset – an ideal option for families, long-stays and corporate guests.
The 10 luxury studios have a kitchenette, plasma TV, broadband internet, Sky TV, stereo, DVD player and waterfront views with private decks.
“At Castaways we have a great range of activities and indulgences and our onsite award winning Agave restaurant boasts a variety of delicious dishes, paired with a prime position overlooking breathtaking ocean views,” Mr Shine enthused. “We provide work for between 60-70 staff.
“In the 2015/16 year we had done over 9000 bed nights, 880 glam camp experience nights, held 58 weddings, and housed 1500 day spa guests, 2900 conference guests and over 27,000 restaurant guests.
“Apart from the obvious location and vista, our guests continually comment on the attention to detail and friendliness of staff, which I can only assume is what brings them and their friends back to us.”
More ideas yet
But in spite of what he has achieved already, Gavin Shine still has plenty of ideas left.
“We’re planning our biggest development yet by expanding onto the 56 hectares and going from 136 beds (including 56 glam camp beds) to 536 beds, and adding a 500 guest wedding and conference facility. We’re seeking an equity partner to help achieve this. We aim to become New Zealand’s leading conference and wedding destination.
“It has been very rewarding seeing a vision turn into reality and. I cannot see any reason to do anything different in the future.”