Thor’s $9m mansion divides Byron Bay
IT'S the sort of mega mansion you'd normally find buried in the Hollywood Hills or perched on the beach at Malibu but nestled among the trees in the surfing town of Byron Bay sits a home that will one day be worth close to $20 million - and it's been dividing residents for years.
The home is owned by Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky, who bought the exclusive property for $7 million in 2014.
Before building their own sprawling estate, the famous couple demolished the luxury Kooeloah resort, a property that was once advertised as "one of the last places on Earth where those who have it all come to get away from it all".
The owners had tried to sell the property for $15 million in 2011 but after three years on the market, Hemsworth swooped in and grabbed the secluded rainforest resort for less than half the price.
Before the celebrities started working on it, Kooeloah was luxurious in its own right.
It boasted eight bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, a lagoon-style pool and sprawling ocean views.
But when the Hemsworths are done with the Seven Mile beachside property, it'll be worth close to $20 million and feature a media room, games room, vast outdoor living and play areas and six bedrooms.
Construction on the mega-mansion, located at Broken Head near Byron Bay on the NSW north coast, began late last year to replace the existing eight-bedroom Balinese-style resort home.
But since the mass renovation kicked off, locals have been up in arms over not just the sprawling construction but what it might do to their beloved laid-back Byron.
Taking to social media last month, hundreds of locals debated whether Hemsworth should be able to spend his $60 million, his reported value in the Forbes' 2018 Rich List, as he sees fit.
Or, if the sprawling estate is ruining Byron Bay's quaint charm.
Local Luke Jolly, whose dad also lives on Seven Mile Beach Rd, said the construction was taking "forever".
"They've been building forever and it can get noisy but neither (my dad) nor I have a problem with it. The bloke is successful, I think he deserves everything he's got," Mr Jolly said.
A development application for the knockdown-rebuild was first lodged with Byron Shire Council in November 2016 and approved in March 2017.
Other locals suggested their experience with the council hadn't run as smoothly as the six months Hemsworth waited for an approval.
"It's obscene, greedy, flashy, vulgar opulence at its finest and has no place in the Byron I once knew and love. A sad sign of things to come due to greedy, unfettered development policy," Georgie Poppins wrote.
Another local said the mansion looked like "a Westfield had been photoshopped into the photo".
"Just thinking of the rigmarole I had to go through with a DA for a second bathroom on my very small house in the Byron shire … I can't imagine the hurdles this would've faced … looks bigger than the Woolies development," Samantha Lee wrote.
"If this was some sort of bank boss or corporate-type dude building a Walmart-like building in the middle of a national park do you reckon we'd all be so forgiving? Or is it because he's Thor and that's cool," she added.
The family's mansion dwarfs the other homes on the remote street with another local suggesting Byron was getting "Hollywooded".
"I thought Byron would be Noosafied but apparently it's being Hollywooded. Next level," Amy Robinson wrote.
Hemsworth's good friend and fellow actor Matt Damon also recently purchased a Byron Bay property and is regularly spotted around town.
Despite the costly build, Byron Bay's median house price last year was $1.6 million with a number of beachside suburbs in the NSW town featuring dozens of three and four level mansions.
Hemsworth has also been praised for hiring local tradies to help with the massive rebuild.
"He has all the relevant approvals. He is using local, very grateful, tradies. The house is not in view of any neighbours and he hasn't cleared any surrounding trees, he should be able to do what he likes," Robyn Sheffield commented.
In a recent interview with GQ Australia, Hemsworth spoke about growing up "broke" in rural Victoria and how he and Pataky were working to make sure their kids had an appreciation for money.
Hemsworth used his first big pay cheque to pay off his parents' mortgage and when asked by GQ how he felt about what his wealth could do to his kids, the Thor star said he "felt gross about it".
"I remember saving up for a surfboard when I was younger. The surfboard was 600 bucks and I saved up for a whole year with dad's help. I didn't even want to surf on it for fear of damaging it. It taught me so many lessons about appreciation and working hard for something," Hemsworth said.
"When I think about my kids, I don't want them to miss that joy. The fact that we have money and their parents are famous, that somehow they're special, that scares me because we grew up with no money."
It's no secret Hemsworth wasn't a huge fan of Los Angeles and the Hollywood lifestyle.
After arriving in LA in 2007, Hemsworth spent less than a decade in the US before permanently relocating back to Australia, choosing Byron as his permanent home.
"That's almost impossible in Los Angeles. Living in Australia allows me to be away from a world where you can lose touch with reality sometimes. I don't want to be too negative about Hollywood because it's given me so many extraordinary opportunities, but I'm much more at ease back home."
Construction on the home is expected to be completed next year with Hemsworth and Pataky planning on raising their three kids, India Rose, five, and three-year-old twin boys Tristan and Sasha there.
- Continue the conversation with Natalie Wolfe on Twitter @natwolfe94