End of an Era: Gray Family Farm Changes Hands After 115 Years

A breathtaking drone view of the Gray Family Farm, showcasing the sprawling peninsula property as it extends into the pristine waters of Great Barrier Island. Photo / Barfoot & Thompson

The historic Gray Family Farm, a property deeply intertwined with the island’s heritage, has been reportedly sold for $11 million. The 65-hectare coastal estate, which has been under the stewardship of one of the island’s first European settler families for 115 years, came onto the market in January.

Featuring two homes designed for ‘sustainable living’, extensive wetlands, and a museum affectionately known as the “heritage hut,” the Palmer’s Beach farm was on the market with a target price of $15 million. The museum houses an array of memorabilia, including items from the early days of farming and local life.

Upon listing the property, Barfoot & Thompson agent Mike Jensen remarked on the early and diverse interest it attracted, saying, “We had interest from America and from farmers from the Waikato before the listing even went live.” The anticipation pointed to a sale that was expected to draw considerable attention, with Aucklanders making the journey to view the property, situated nearly 100km from the mainland.

The property’s rich history is highlighted by its connections to local lore, including the original farmhouse built from the remnants of the Wiltshire steamer, a ship that sank off Windy Hill near Rosalie Bay in 1922. The house was later relocated to serve as part of the Community Heritage and Arts Village at Claris.

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Owners John and Shirley Gray, while choosing not to publicly discuss the sale, expressed through Jensen that moving on represented the next phase in their family’s journey.

The prospect of the farm’s sale had garnered interest from various sectors, including Mana Whenua, who had hoped the land might be transferred to them as part of their iwi settlement. Similarly, there were voices within the community advocating for the government’s acquisition of the property, drawing parallels to the acquisition and stewardship transition of Glenfern Sanctuary to Auckland Council in 2016.

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Barfoot & Thompson agent Mike Jensen said he understood the Auckland buyer had no plans to subdivide but would use the property as a bach.

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