Abel Tasman beach buy plugs gap in DoC armour

By Scott Yeoman, Isaac Davison, Ben Hill

Minister says crowdfunded land gives control of entire park border.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says her department plans to charge for commercial access to an idyllic Abel Tasman beach which was purchased through an online crowdfunding campaign.

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The Givealittle campaign yesterday succeeded in its bid to buy the Awaroa Inlet beach and open it up to the public after a last-minute contribution of $350,000 by the Government. Around 39,000 people pledged $2.28 million towards the bid.

The 7ha slice of land, which features large tracts of native bush and an 800m stretch of beach, would now be placed into a trust and added to the Abel Tasman National Park.

Ms Barry said commercial operators would no longer be able to use the beach as a free entry point to the national park for helicopters and boats.

"When we gazette it into the national park, then people will no longer be allowed to land there. And if they do, we will be able to generate revenue by giving them concessions to do so."

Ms Barry said the beach had "interrupted" the coastline of the national park and had made it more difficult for DoC to manage the area.

"The issue is that people were using this strip of beach in an opportunistic way, and landing commercial craft in a way that is not appropriate in a national park. We couldn't do anything to stop them but now we will.

"It is a delicate ecological balance, that part of the foreshore. We want to ensure we can protect it in perpetuity, and having helicopters and kayaks and other craft land on it wasn't helpful for its long-term survival."

DoC already charges commercial operators such as water taxis to access other parts of the national park. Members of the public would not require a concession to get to the Awaroa Inlet beach.

Ms Barry said revenue generation was not the reason that the Government had bought a stake in the land. DoC had been interested in acquiring the site for at least 10 years, but did not believe its biodiversity and ecological values justified the $2 million price tag.

DoC had originally planned to contribute $150,000 from its Natural Heritage Fund, but put in another $200,000 during the negotiations to get the bid across the line. The total contribution amounted to 20 per cent of the fund's annual budget.

Ms Barry said the crowdfunding approach had been a "phenomenon" but she said this did not mean DoC would be winding back its responsibility to acquire land for conservation purposes.

A Givealittle spokeswoman told the Herald that they are in the process of finalising all the details of the fundraising campaign. They will then directly email every person that pledged money and begin processing the payments.

Because the beach fundraiser was a Givealittle "project" rather than a "cause", no money had yet been drawn, she said.

Instead, people have provided their credit card details and made a pledge.

The emails will be sent out today and will seek confirmation that people are ready for the money to be withdrawn from their account.

Givealittle had accounted for the possibility of people backtracking on their pledges, the spokeswoman said.

"We have a process for managing that."

Campaign organiser Duane Major said yesterday morning of their victory: "We have pulled it off, we have pulled it off. At 10:57 last night we delivered a pristine piece of beach and bush into the hands of all New Zealanders to look after and cherish and treasure forever.

"My heart is beating and I've got goosebumps and I'm just so thankful for all those people. What a crazy journey."

Mr Major revealed that the final amount raised by the public was $2,278,171.09.

He said he was deeply satisfied.

"We've done something very special I believe."

Abel Tasman campaign: Timeline

January 22, 2016 - The "Pristine beach in the heart of the Abel Tasman" project is launched on crowd-fundraising website Givealittle, asking for $2 million to buy the seven hectare private beach in Abel Tasman National Park's Awaroa Inlet.

January 26 - The page has seven pledges worth $6300.

January 27 - Spark pledges $20,000 to the Givealittle campaign, which is now at $250,000 with close to 4500 people donating.

January 31 - More than $600,000 has been pledged by 9273 people.

February 3 - Conservation Minister Maggie Barry confirms that the beach will be added to the Abel Tasman National Park if the online campaign succeeds. More than 11,000 have so far raised $750,000.

February 7 - The Givealittle campaign breaks $1 million, with more than 15,000 pledges. Labour leader Andrew Little says the Government should make it a Waitangi weekend to remember by agreeing to meet the remaining cost of buying the beach.

February 9 - More than $1.3 million has been pledged by over 20,000 donors. Millionaire Gareth Morgan offers to front the remaining money, but his offer comes with conditions. He writes on his blog that he will cover the difference needed, but he wants the section of beach that is currently private to remain that way - for his family.

February 10 - A total of $1,520,982.30 has been pledged by more than 24,000 people and businesses. Gareth Morgan's offer is met with outrage, with some people saying they will retract their pledges. The men behind the Givealittle campaign, Adam Gardner and Duane Major, assure pledgers they do not want Morgan's money.
February 12 - The campaign reaches its $2 million target, with more than 33,200 people and businesses donating.

February 15 - Campaign closes, generating more than $2 million. There are donations from 39,249 people and businesses. The final tally is kept secret. Gareth Morgan claims it was his cunning scheme that helped push up donations.

February 16 - The deadline closes for offers to buy the beach. A spokesman for Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says the Government has not ruled out making a "a modest contribution to the appeal should the need arise," but saysat this stage, no commitment has been made.

February 24 - Campaign is successful. Organiser Duane Major announces that the public fundraising effort was enough to secure the beach, with a total of $2,278,171.09 donated. The Government also supports the bid with a "modest" contribution. Mr Major says the piece of beach and bush was delivered into the hands of all New Zealanders at 10.57pm the night before.

- NZ Herald

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