Iconic Northland beach Elliot Bay to become conservation mecca

First it was saved from developers, now plans are in place to turn an iconic Northland beach into a conservation mecca.

More than $6 million was raised to purchase Elliot Bay from private owners in June last year and the deal means the public will continue to have access for generations. 

The Bay of Islands has many jewels for the public to admire and Elliot Bay is the latest to be added to its crown.

"As the crow flies from the Cape Brett Peninsula down to Taupiri this is about 18 kilometres of untouched undeveloped land," says Geoff Ricketts, chair of the Ipipiri Nature Conservancy Trust.

For 90 years the Elliot family has let the public camp, surf and access this beach by cutting through their 710 hectare farm.

But the sale of the land and the keen interest of developers threatened to shut the community out.

"I'd say to my wife 'it's a tragedy if this place was split up and broken up'," Ricketts says.

That's when Ricketts took matters into his own hands, forming a charitable trust to raise an initial $6m to buy it for the public.

It's easy to see why locals describe this place as paradise. People have been coming here for generations and now the new owners want to ensure this serenity is enjoyed for generations to come.

The sale also includes extensive native forest in an area with rich history for local iwi.

"It's more about an experience so when people come here they take away a lot more understanding, firstly of Maori and also about the heritage that exists here," says Robert Willoughby of Ngāti Kuta.

Eventually the plan is to link the bay up to a number of hiking tracks, creating a multi-day trek that would rival the South Island's Great Walks.

"It's one big network of interest. And one way or another we're connected to it so the idea would be to bring all those connections together," Willoughby says.

The trust is now tasked with restoring and protecting the land - turning it into a taonga - a treasure for all to enjoy.

"When you get involved in one of these things you get hooked on it," Rickets says.

A passion project that's kept this remarkable piece of Northland in safe hands.