Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Beach at Awaroa Inlet 'should be returned to Maori'

Abel Tasman National Park's Awaroa Inlet was the subject of a Givealittle campaign to buy the land and gift to the Department of Conservation. Photo / Supplied
Abel Tasman National Park's Awaroa Inlet was the subject of a Givealittle campaign to buy the land and gift to the Department of Conservation. Photo / Supplied

The chairman of an iwi-owned company with a $260 million asset base says the beach at Awaroa Inlet should be returned to Maori, not the crown.

Tenders closed to buy the seven hectare property yesterday, after more than $2 million was pledged through Givealittle to buy it.

It is unknown how many offers have been made for the land, or how much the Givealittle campaign organisers offered.

They hope to know if the tender has been accepted by the end of the week.

If it is accepted the land will be gifted to the Department of Conservation.

But Wakatu Incorporation chairman Paul Morgan said the Crown had not been a good custodian of New Zealand land, and he did not feel comfortable with it being gifted to the Government.

"They haven't had a vision for New Zealand's future.

"If you look at the family holiday camp on the beach, most of those have been lost to private ownership so New Zealanders' ability to go camping at the beach for a reasonable price is being lost."

He said there needed to be a better system to protect land and access to beaches for all New Zealanders - and the issue of Awaroa Inlet was a good opportunity to debate the topic.

The land would be better off if it were returned to Maori, he said, and it had been acquired dubiously by the Crown in the first place.

Mr Morgan said the organisation kept an "enormous" archival record of the land and its history - including the property at Awaroa Inlet.

He said he was currently before the Supreme Court disputing the way in which land in the area was acquired by the Crown back in 1841 for the settlement of the Nelson district by the New Zealand Company.

"Awaroa Inlet is just a small element of a bigger issue."

Nelson based Wakatu is owned by about 4000 shareholders from Te Tai Ihu hapu, descendants of Ngati Tama, Ngati Rarua, Te Atiawa.

The company manages a portfolio of vineyards, orchards, residential properties, large retail developments, office buildings, marine farms and "waterspace."

It also owns a business that focuses on fruit bars, seafood products, pipfruit and hops.

According to the company's website, it grew from an asset base of $11m asset in 1977 to a current value of more than $260 million.

The Givealittle campaign's organisers maintain they have worked closely with iwi throughout the process, writing on the website "I had another great chat with a kaumatua from the mana whenua and he seemed encouraged by this impromptu initiative."

- NZ Herald

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