Iconic Warkworth tourist destination goes on the market

John Collyer likes the fact Sheepworld is educational and entertaining at the same time.

The 11.3ha property can be purchased either with vacant possession or as a going concern.
The 11.3ha property can be purchased either with vacant possession or as a going concern.

A desire to spend more time with his elderly parents in the United Kingdom has prompted the owner of Sheepworld to put his tourist hotspot on the market.

But John Collyer believes the iconic attraction north of Warkworth has a bright future for any new owner wanting to take it on, despite the devastation wrought on tourism businesses due to Covid-19.

Mr Collyer says around 40 per cent of Sheepworld visitors were Kiwis, meaning that the business could still function despite the abrupt loss of overseas visitors.

“We were a lot luckier than a lot of tourism businesses, where 90 per cent plus of the  business relies on international visitors. They had nothing to work with,” he says.

By contrast, Sheepworld could at least “kick along” by scaling back operations and reducing staff while waiting for things to pick up.

Mr Collyer believes the soon-to-be-completed Puhoi to Warkworth motorway will be another shot in the arm for Sheepworld for two reasons.

Firstly, it will make Sheepworld much more accessible to visitors from Auckland. Secondly, with

Sheepworld being only about a kilometre north of the Warkworth motorway intersection, it will be the first place to visit after leaving the motorway heading north, or the last place to stop before entering the motorway heading south.

“The pulling-off-the-road factor to visit Sheepworld is going to be pretty high,” he says.

Mr Collyer says when he first bought the business almost 20 years ago, the motorway only went as far as Orewa, but things improved enormously when it was extended as far as Puhoi via the Johnstones Hill tunnels, making Sheepworld more accessible.

Mr Collyer, who previously ran his own educational tourism business in the UK, came to New Zealand in 2000 on a visit that was supposed to last two years. He liked the place so much that he decided to stay, and bought Sheepworld in 2003.

He says the multi-faceted nature of the business appealed to him – in addition to the sheep show attraction there was also a retail component and a café.

He also liked the fact that it was educational and entertaining at the same time.

“When I bought it I had two small children and I know how much I enjoyed seeing them there,” he says.

The existing Sheepworld business includes a farmyard park/petting zoo, a nature walk through native bush, and a retail shop selling sheepskin and other wool-related products. The café is currently leased to a separate operator.

Visitors can learn all about sheep and wool production in New Zealand through a live show where sheep are rounded up by dogs, sorted and shorn.   

The 11.3 hectare property can be purchased either with vacant possession or as a going concern with the existing business included.

Buildings on site include numerous farm-related facilities, out-buildings, animal shelters, offices and workspaces.

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