20 Jun 2016

NZers want to see Awaroa - the beach they now 'own'

12:54 pm on 20 June 2016

New Zealand's smallest national park is about to get slightly bigger.

A ceremony on 10 July will mark a beach front site at Awaroa, bought by the public following a successful crowd-funding campaign, becoming part of the Abel Tasman National Park.

The Awaroa beachfront property was bought through contributions from the public.

The Awaroa beachfront property was bought through contributions from the public. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The property, bought for close to $3 million with a little help from the government, is to be officially gifted at next month's ceremony, the Department of Conservation has confirmed.

The online campaign run by Christchurch pastor Duane Major and his brother-in-law Adam Gard'ner successfully secured the property through a tender process for a final price of about $2.85m. About 40,000 people donated to the cause.

The government gave $350,000 to top up crowd-funding pledges towards the purchase of the stretch of beach land in Abel Tasman National Park, that was placed on the market earlier this year by a Wellington family.

Tourism operators in the park said there had been strong demand from the public to see the beachfront land they now "owned" in Awaroa.

The “boat bach” is one of three dwellings on the Awaroa property that now belongs to New Zealand.

The “boat bach” is one of three dwellings on the Awaroa property that now belongs to New Zealand. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

It was noted in a Nelson Marlborough Conservation Board meeting in April that one operator, Sea Shuttle, had received calls from the public wanting to "camp" on the land.

The company's marketing manager Mark Burnaby said a few had joked about camping there, but it was prohibited.

He said most just wanted to see the beach and touch the sand.

"A lot of people who hadn't actually been into the Abel Tasman National Park were making efforts to go up and see what they'd contributed to. I couldn't put a percentage on it but certainly there was a lot of comments from a lot of people... and even international people - tourists that had heard about it and were interested in going to have a look at what all the fuss was about."

Mr Burnaby grew up in nearby Motueka and regularly visited the national park. Awaroa was nationally significant land and it was good to tie it into the conservation estate, he said.

Darryl Wilson, chief executive of long-running tourism business Wilson's Abel Tasman, also noted increased interest in the boat run up to Awaroa at the northern end of the park.

"There has been an increased interest in Awaroa. People have certainly been interested to see what they bought - or what the country bought.

More walking tracks were being cut in Awaroa, which would make it a more appealing destination for day visits, Mr Wilson said.

The ceremony on 10 July will be hosted by the Department of Conservation, local iwi and the campaign organisers.

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