A derelict Rarotonga resort, once linked to the Italian mafia and believed to be cursed, is up for sale.

Auckland-based Mirage Group has put the abandoned beachfront property on the market.

The resort, on the southern side of the island, is known as the former site of a planned Sheraton Hotel.

The land is now home to a number of cows and horses who graze the poorly maintained grounds. Graffiti covers the walls inside and out, while torn wiring dangles from the ceiling.

It is rumoured the initial developer had ties to the Italian mafia. Locals said he just up and left, and when he did, the locals came in and took any furniture and fittings they could. All that remains are moss-ridden spa baths, smashed hand basins and toilets.

In November 2014, Mirage Group lodged an Environmental Impact Assessment with a Cook Islands Government agency seeking approval to turn the hotel site into a five-star resort.
The application had been placed on hold.

However, Bayleys, which is marketing the property, said the owner has already won approval for changes to the island’s ring road, which currently separates the buildings from the beach.
Approval has been given to re-route the road so that guests have unimpeded views and access to the 330 metre beachfront.

Bayleys said the current owner had completed plans for a luxury resort featuring stylish hotel rooms and a lush tropical garden.

The entire project was about 90 percent complete when work stopped in the early 1990s.

Completion of the new hotel remains a top priority for Rarotonga’s fast-growing tourism industry.

The property would be Rarotonga’s first five-star resort with potential to accommodate up to 460 rooms, villas and apartments.

Bayleys expects strong interest from New Zealand, Fiji, the United States, and throughout Asia.

The new developer or investor would be free to make adjustments, or propose a completely new resort, as long as it remains a five-star product.

Bayleys salesman Philip Toogood said the current owner was shifting focus to new ventures closer to home in New Zealand. The property had huge development potential, he said.

The hotel dates from a 1987 deal when the Cook Islands government signed a $52 million contract with an Italian bank. Another Italian company later stepped in but failed to finish the 200-room job when Rome pulled funding amid allegations of mafia-related corruption.