Australian-born, London-based entrepreneur Ian Gowrie-Smith bought the islands in 2003, after first visiting them in 1996.
|The diving in PNG’s Conflict Islands is ‘extraordinary’|
Mr Gowrie-Smith has developed a resort on the third-largest island, Panasesa, which has a 650-metre runway – which he said could accommodate most private jets, after a leisurely four-hour flight from Sydney. The largest island, Irai, has 7000 metres of beachfront land and capacity for a 3000-metre jet runway.
Island ownership is at the extreme end of exclusive property. Most islands are under leaseholds, about 5 per cent are available on a freehold title. Island ownership sounds exorbitant but may come in cheaper than a lot of Sydney’s waterfront property.
Gowrie-Smith said he was open to offers and ideas – he is just as interested in what buyers intend for the atoll as the prices they are willing to pay. The collection was valued at $US25 million about 10 years ago.
If the right joint-venture partner puts a hand up, he would enjoy exploring conservation opportunities. Ideally, he hopes to find like-minded investors keen to preserve its diverse ecology while opening up tourism opportunities.
“I’m in no hurry to sell. I don’t need to sell them, I feel it is time to explore the islands’ full potential. The diving there is extraordinary; there is nowhere else like it in the world,” he says.
Gowrie-Smith said the Conflict Islands were the only known freehold islands available in Papua New Guinea. The islands are able to be owned by non-PNG citizens through company structures and the 21 islands are divided into nine PNG companies.
Owning an island is a popular asset for rich people, either as a private getaway or as a tourism investment. Island owners include Leonardo DiCaprio, Robin Williams, Johnny Depp, Richard Branson, Larry Ellisson and locally the likes of Peter Bond, Bob Oatley, Chris Morris and Clive Palmer.
- Read the full story in the Australian Financial Review: Islands cheaper than Sydney homes