Awaroa: How NZ bought a beach

Awaroa: How NZ bought a beach

If beaches had keys, the owners of Awaroa Beach in Abel Tasman National Park would be handing them over to the public this weekend.

The beach will officially be folded into the park which surrounds it at a ceremony on July 10.

The crowdfunding campaign to buy a 7.36 hectare piece of remote paradise nestled inside an unspoiled piece of New Zealand bush and scenery captured the nation's attention.

Awaroa: How NZ bought a beach

The campaign, led by Adam Gard'ner and Duane Major, started off humbly enough with a Givealittle page set up after some "Christmas Day banter" between the two brothers-in-law in 2015.

"There is a pristine piece of beach and bush in the heart of the Abel Tasman up for private sale. Together we can buy it and gift it to NZ," the page stated matter-of-factly.

The key words on the fundraising page were 'public places', 'conservation' and, fitting at the time, 'dream'.

But it wasn't to stay a flight of fancy for long, with the campaign going viral online and making news headlines.

Awaroa: How NZ bought a beach


When it closed nearly 40,000 had pledged $2.28 million, with many more backing it in spirit.

But while it had momentum and the public on side, it still needed a bit of a push. That's when the Government jumped on board, but it wasn't without a bit of controversy.

Official documents released to Newshub showed the Government put in more than double what it intended at the last minute when it looked like the campaign would fail.

The Government used $350,000 of money sourced from the Nature Heritage Fund (NHF) -- an independent contestable ministerial fund. It was more than double what the NHF recommended, which was $150,000.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry called the Government's contribution "modest", but it was just under half of the fund's remaining budget for the 2015/16 year. She and Associate Conservation Minster Nicky Wagner both maintained it was a good use of money.

But it was a steep price to pay for a piece of land which had minimal conservation value, according to the Department of Conservation, and NHF member Dr Gerry McSweeney said spending that much on it was "almost extortion".

It was the second time the NHF had tried to buy the beach.

The Conservation Minister's backing wasn't the only high-profile support the campaign got. Economist and philanthropist Gareth Morgan offered the money the country needed, but with a catch: he and his family get exclusive access to part of the property for an unspecified period.

Nope. That was rejected by Mr Gard'ner, who said the proposal went against everything the campaign stood for.

But Mr Morgan defended his offer, saying "every philanthropist has a limited amount of money to give and they want to see the best return for that money".

Mr Morgan wasn't needed in the end, with the Government's money, campaign funds and $250,000 from the Joyce Fisher Charitable Trust getting the tender bid to around $2.8 million.

He later claimed the suggestion was a bid to galvanise people to get the campaign over its target.

But regardless of his motivations, that was the ultimate outcome -- a beach all of New Zealand now owns.