It has been a rewarding year for the man known in some quarters as the “Kaitaia Kid.”
Peter Cooper, one of New Zealand’s biggest developers, was made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit in the New Year Honours List for services to urban redevelopment.
The Los Angeles-based Kiwi, who was raised in the Far North, said he was honoured and humbled to receive the award.
As the founder of Cooper & Company, he’s behind the redevelopment and restoration of 17 historic buildings and several new ones at Auckland’s trendy Britomart precinct.
“If I have to think of a highlight [in my career], it’s essentially being able to convert heritage structures into living, working buildings rather than museum monuments,” he says.
“We’re a bit short on history or built heritage in one of the youngest countries in the world and there has been a lot of wholesale destruction.”
After a decade, Britomart now has 140 tenants and buildings valued at more than $500 million but Mr Cooper says it was not his most profitable venture.
“At one stage we estimated $350 million but well in excess of that has been spent,” he is reported saying.
“It’s probably come out better than we hoped for as we never thought we would have it 100% occupied.”
Mr Cooper has also established the Britomart Arts Foundation, seeding an initial donation of $1 million and donating works by New Zealand artists.
Of Te Aupouri, Ngati Kuri and Te Rarawa descent, he left Kaitaia College as head boy to study law, going on to become a partner at Russell McVeagh as well as executive director of Lion Nathan, chief executive of LD Nathan & Co and joint managing director of Mace Development Corporation.
Today, as a developer, he has been the brains behind Southlake Town Square in Texas and The Landing Residences in the Bay of Islands.
Despite his many achievements, this son of a Kaitaia contractor still regards himself as a boy from the North.
“I’m very proud to be a son of Kaitaia,” he says.
”I was raised there and grew up on Ninety Mile Beach, going fishing with my father, so I have that in my soul.
“That’s where it all started.”