25 Jan 2016

Crowdfunding campaign to keep beach public

2:56 pm on 25 January 2016

A campaign has been launched to crowd-fund the purchase of a $2 million block of land at Awaroa in the Abel Tasman National Park.

The stretch of land that the group are trying to raise funds for.

The stretch of land that the group are trying to raise funds for. Photo: Wilson's Abel Tasman.

A Givealittle page has been set up by a small company called Communitas, which has so far received seven pledges, totalling $6000, towards its goal of buying the land.

Communitas is registered with the New Zealand Companies Office as a Christchurch based residential property investment company. Director Duane Major, a long-time youth worker, said it was a small company set up a couple of years ago with the aim of helping others to change things, especially in the property market. So far Communitas has bought a couple of houses for people in their local neighbourhood.

"It was set up in response to local needs around accommodation. We're a couple of neighbours who got together and threw some money in. It's just a small entity and ideally it would have been a non-profitable charitable thing but it's so much effort doing that, we just went ahead and set up a company," Mr Major said.

Directors Duane and Ruth Major, and Aaron and Summer Stewart, described Communitas as a community minded business, with the idea of financial gains turning into wins for the public.

They aimed to buy the pristine piece of beach and bush in the heart of the park and gift it to New Zealand. They said the property in Awaroa had riparian rights, and therefore no queens chain, which meant an owner could prevent people walking along the beach.

Awaroa, at the northern end of the park, included a small enclave of privately owned land and holiday homes. Communitas believed there were "lots of people out there who also want the opportunity to have that kind of place owned and shared by everyone in New Zealand".

They said the idea started when "a couple of brothers-in-law had some lively Christmas Day banter about a bunch of things on the boil in New Zealand", including the example of what they believed was "the most beautiful piece of earth being sold in the heart of our beloved Abel Tasman National Park".

Mr Major reckoned they had a good chance of raising the funds.

"I couldn't live with myself if I didn't try. Irrespective of the outcome I feel it's the right thing to do. If there are enough people who feel as strongly as me - you never know, it is actually possible."

The park, which borders Tasman Bay in Nelson, is the country's smallest. It was founded in 1942, largely through the efforts of ornithologist and author Perrine Moncrieff to have land reserved for the purpose. It is administered by the Department of Conservation.

Communitas said it had spoken with the Department, which had been interested in the property, but the market price was out of its ballpark. The plan was to gift it to DOC, or a suitable trust.

"The bottom line for this project is that this beautiful piece of New Zealand is off the market permanently for all to enjoy," Communitas said.

A Givealittle Project would only pay the funds if the $2 million target was reached.