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Lording it at Byron

By David Gordon

A FEW years ago ”dropping out” in Byron Bay meant living on mung beans in the back of a clapped out Kombi overlooking some of the best beaches in the world.

These days, with real estate prices in the idyllic resort town rocketing over the past decade or so, ”dropping out” is for big city millionaires only. And they’re doing it in style.

A growing list of high-class hippies have moved into Byron Bay, the latest being media executive David Gyngell and his television ”personality” wife Leila McKinnon.

The couple have been creating the ultimate weekender in the hinterland, a modernist compound comprising several pavilions built by a team of master stonemasons and affording spectacular views over the Pacific.

In 2007 Gyngell, chief executive of Nine Entertainment, paid $3.5 million for a little over two hectares at St Helena Road, not far from where The Apprentice star Mark Bouris has developed his own Byron bolthole.

Gyngell is reportedly spending at least $1.75 million building a four-bedroom house with roof deck, terrace and three-car garage. Designed by the Sydney architect Alwill, the property will feature a 33 square metre swimming pool – bigger than some Sydney apartments. Showing his green side, Gyngell is also including solar panels and rainwater tanks.

A few lush pastures away is Bouris’s weekender, which features its own television pavilion in the rainforest where the millionaire and his family and friends gather to watch footy matches.

Several other silvertails have also invested in the area, including former publishing mogul Deke Miskin and his bikini designer wife Eve, who can be found on her surfboard catching a set with locals most mornings.

The Miskins have their Sydney harbour-front mansion, Altona, on the market with expectations for $50 million.

The actor Simon Baker from The Mentalist reportedly spent $1.5 million on his Byron retreat, Nashua. Salmat co-founder Peter Mattick has reportedly spent $9 million building a home in Marine Parade, Wategos Beach, having already spent nearly $4.5 million buying the property several years ago.

Sussan CEO Naomi Milgrom has ploughed about $10 million into real estate and is rumoured to be building the grandest home the area has seen since Paul Hogan built his Tuscan-style pile at nearby Possum Creek. Today it is owned by the former Sydney socialites Sally and Duncan Mount, who have it on the market for $8 million.

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