Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Minister says DoC will charge for access to Awaroa beach

The Government helped get the Givealittle campaign to purchase Awaroa inlet in Abel Tasman National Park over the line. Photo: Nelson Tourism
The Government helped get the Givealittle campaign to purchase Awaroa inlet in Abel Tasman National Park over the line. Photo: Nelson Tourism

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

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. More than 39,000 people pledged $2.28 million.

The 7ha slice of land, which features large tracts of native bush and an 800m stretch of beach, will 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.

"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."

Maggie Barry, Minister of Conservation. Photo: Jason Oxenham
Maggie Barry, Minister of Conservation. Photo: Jason Oxenham

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

Ms Barry said revenue generation was not why the Government had bought a stake in the land.

DoC had wanted to acquire 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 a further $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 this did not mean DoC would be winding back its responsibility to acquire land for conservation purposes.

A Givealittle spokeswoman said it was finalising all the details of the fundraising campaign. It would then email everyone who 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.

Givealittle had accounted for the possibility of people backtracking, she said.

Campaign organiser Duane Major said yesterday: "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," he said. "What a crazy journey."

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

- NZ Herald

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