Abel Tasman beach campaign reaches its $2 million target

By Jane Phare

The beach is listed with real estate company Bayleys, which describes it as "picturesque". Photo / Supplied
The beach is listed with real estate company Bayleys, which describes it as "picturesque". Photo / Supplied

The campaign for an Abel Tasman beach has reached its $2 million target.

A Givealittle page has raised the money needed to buy the beach on the Awaroa Inlet.

The money will be used to place a tender on the seven hectare beach, before the process closes on February 16.

If the tender is accepted the beach will be gifted to the Department of Conservation, or a suitable trust.

The organisers of the crowdfunding campaign have gone into "stealth mode" to prevent opposing bidders from knowing exactly how much money they have raised.

In the face of criticism by millionaire Gareth Morgan, who described their campaign as "naive", the Givealittle organisers consulted lawyers this afternoon and discovered they were able to freeze the published total at $2 million, while keeping the pledges coming in until Monday at 3pm.

Now that the $2 million target is reached, only the increase in the number of people making pledges - more than 33,200 by this afternoon - will show on the site. The final tally will be kept secret.

Since the Givealittle site launched on January 22, private bidders wanting a shot at owning the 7.3ha sandspit and bush property in Awaroa Bay have known exactly what they're up against in terms of the public's bid to buy the land.

Organiser Duane Major, of Christchurch, said this morning he thought Givealittle would not be able to freeze the total. But Givealittle consulted its lawyers and technicians this afternoon and established the published tally could freeze at $2 million.

"We are going into stealth mode as we get closer and closer to the time," Major said.

Tenders for the property close at 4pm on Tuesday.

Bayleys estate agent Glenn Dick said more than 100 people, both from New Zealand and overseas, had expressed interest.

Mr Morgan has been critical of the Givealittle campaign organisers saying they risked inflating the price and said other bidders would know to offer more than the crowdfunding total.

An offer by Mr Morgan to contribute enough money to seal the deal, in return for use of the existing buildings for the philanthropist and his family for an agreed period, was rejected.

The land, with 800m of golden sand, is owned by Wellington businessman Michael Spackman, who described it as "the best beach in the planet".

He bought the property, surrounded by Abel Tasman National Park, for $1.98 million in 2008. The buildings are basic - a 1960s one-room bach with kitchenette, a "quaint" redecorated former fishing boat, an old woolshed with a sleeping deck and storage area, and two long-drop toilets.

There's no road in; access is on foot through the Abel Tasman track, by helicopter or plane - there's a local airstrip - or by boat. Morgan said if the crowdfunders fail to buy the land, it might end up in the hands of the "helicopter set" who could block public access to the beach.

Yesterday Mr Spackman and his son-in-law, highflying Wellington lawyer and property developer Mike Garnham, were in the Wellington High Court fighting the BNZ over the recall of $6.2 million worth of loans.

The BNZ sought summary judgment against Garnham and several companies, of which Garnham, Spackman and Spackman's daughter Caroline are shareholders.

Associate Judge Warwick Smith reserved his decision.

- NZ Herald

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