27 Jan 2016

Campaign to buy beach sparks up

6:19 pm on 27 January 2016

A campaign to crowd-fund the purchase of a $2 million block of land at Awaroa in the Abel Tasman National Park has attracted pledges from almost 5000 backers totalling more than $340,000.

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: givealittle.co.nz

New Zealand telecommunications company Spark has got on board with a $20,000 donation and has invited other New Zealand companies to do the same.

RNZ News reported earlier this week that a Givealittle page set up by small property investment company Communitas had received seven pledges, totalling $6000, towards its goal of buying the land.

Widespread attention since then has seen the total grow rapidly.

Communitas director Duane Major said they wanted to buy the pristine piece of beach and bush in the heart of the park and gift it to New Zealand.

He told RNZ News today he was overwhelmed at the response.

"It reminds me of the spirit of Telethon I had growing up - you know, 'thank you very much for your kind donation'.

"I just think if we inspire one another - if we do the maths, this is eminently feasible we can do this," Mr Major said.

Spark managing director Simon Moutter said they loved the idea behind the campaign, and New Zealanders using technology to join together to do something to benefit the country for generations to come.

"Two million dollars is a big ask for a small country like ours so we wanted to chip in and do our bit, and we're encouraging other New Zealand businesses to join us."

Mr Moutter said Spark had also offered legal and other procedural support, should the $2 million be raised and the campaign move to the next stage of tendering for the land.

Mr Major, a long-time youth worker, has regularly holidayed in the national park - the country's smallest, which includes enclaves of privately owned land.

He told RNZ News earlier this week that 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". One of the topics included what they believed was "the most beautiful piece of earth being sold in the heart of our beloved Abel Tasman National Park".

Mr Major said the property in Awaroa had riparian rights, and therefore no queens chain, which meant public access to the beach could be stopped if a private owner chose that option.

He said irrespective of the outcome, he felt they had to try.

"I couldn't live with myself if I didn't try - 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 private property spans 800m on land only accessible by air or boat. The campaign has a deadline of 15 February, and the property had attracted a good level of interest from a number of potential buyers, a real estate firm said.

Mr Major said if successful they would give the beach to a public organisation or a trust to put it to public use.

He said the Department of Conservation had expressed interest in the property.

A Givealittle project page will only pay the funds if they reach the target of $2 million, and if the target is not reached the page will not charge donors' credit cards. Givealittle will not release the funds until the tender for the property is secured.