The prospect of a new public park along 11km of unspoiled Pakiri and Te Arai beaches north of Warkworth will be a hot topic at Auckland Plan talks.
The park would be Auckland Council's most remote and wild on the east coast and would enable a "no go" area to protect critically threatened wildlife species.
It could combine council land with a pine forest owned by a joint venture of Ngati Whatua hapu Te Uri o Hau and developer NZ Land Trust.
Their company, Te Arai Coastal Lands Trust, shelved its residential subdivision plans on November 1 after five years of opposition.
But the environmental objections remain, said the Te Arai Beach Preservation Society in a presentation to last week's meeting of the council regional development and operations committee.
Chris Wild said the beach was one of Auckland's jewels and needed judicious care to manage risks to 16 threatened species, including the New Zealand ferry tern and the northern New Zealand dotterel.
Residential development was their biggest threat. These species remain only because it was remote and relatively undisturbed, said Ms Wild.
The developer could achieve 48 house lots under "significant enhancement planting" rules in the Rodney District Plan, which call for a buffer strip of 550m for dune restoration.
"But shorebirds require unvegetated environments, so we maintain that a setback buffer of less than 1km will not protect shorebird populations," said Ms Wild.
A call for the council to buy the company's 616ha holding outright was made by the society's chairman, Mark Walker. It was supported by a society petition signed by 3000 people.
The Department of Conservation was a potential contributor and the society was willing to raise funds.
"Our members come from across the region and New Zealand, including expats in the UK and people who have been here and want to help us."
Failing outright purchase, the council should delay any decision to extend the regional park until after the Auckland Plan public consultation in November. The society expected to influence it to designate no-go areas for development.
After the presentation, the committee discussed Te Arai in a confidential session.
In 2008 the Auckland Regional Council bought 50ha to add to a headland reserve on the Pakiri side of the forest.
Parks, recreation and heritage forum chairwoman Sandra Coney said yesterday the former ARC had had talks with the company about extending the public domain but nothing had resulted.
The company's spokesman was unavailable for comment.