The Kiwis behind last year's campaign to buy an Abel Tasman beach have been honoured for their "significant and lasting contributions to public access" to the outdoors.

Duane Major and Adam Gard'ner were tonight among those awarded the 2016 Walking Access Champion award, presented by Associate Primary Industries Minister Louise Upston at Parliament.

The pair helped raise more than $2 million through a high-profile Givealittle campaign last year to buy 7ha of private beach at Awaroa Inlet, which was then made part of the Abel Tasman National Park.

Speaking to the Herald, Major joked the plaque would be going "straight to the pool room" once he returned home to Christchurch.


He said being at the ceremony among so many other people who were invested in public access for beautiful places had been a moving experience.

"We were very humbled to be part of quite a cool group," he said.

"It just reaffirmed that real strong belief we have that there are so many New Zealanders doing great things.

"It's been a really encouraging night."

Gard'ner agreed, saying the award wasn't only about them, but all the people who had donated to make buying the beach possible.

"We feel like we're sharing the award with so many people who stood up and got involved in the campaign."

Both men said they had not known much about the New Zealand Walking Access Commission, who were behind the awards.

"We have had to school ourselves up a bit more than we would have liked to."

The work the commission did behind the scenes to make sure public access went ahead and was granted was so valuable, Gard'ner said.

"Mr Major and Mr Gard'ner embody the spirit of the Walking Access Champion Awards, which recognise those who have made significant and lasting contributions to public access to the great New Zealand outdoors," Upston said during tonight's ceremony.

Each year nominations for Walking Access Champions are sought from the public, in particular individuals and organisations who work with the New Zealand Walking Access Commission.

"This includes securing new legal access, championing public rights of access, trail-building or contributing to ensuring the public understand access rights and responsibilities."

Other recipients announced at the ceremony included Robert Lange for gifting 53,000ha in Central Otago to the public, and Russell Hamilton who was working with Lange to create a track network on the land.

Rod Eatwell, 88, the largest private landowner on the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds, was also recognised.

"Mr Eatwell works continually to maintain his section of the track, including building a track to Eatwell's Lookout, which provides unparalleled views of the Sounds," Upston said.

The Nelson Tasman Cycle Trust was recognised for its work over the past seven years to improve public access to the region. The trust developed the 38km Dun Mountain Trail and the 100km Great Taste Trail.

"Tonight's award recipients have all made important contributions towards enhancing public access across the country," Upston said.

"I congratulate them for their achievements and their contributions towards enhancing the experience for everyone who enjoys New Zealand's outdoors."

Other Walking Access Champions recognised tonight were:

Te Araroa Wellington Trust, which created the popular Paekakariki-Pukerua Bay Escarpment Track on the Kapiti Coast which opened in April 2016. By the end of its first year, around 60,000 people are expected to have walked the track, which has also had a positive impact on local businesses.

Whareroa Guardians Community Trust which works to enhance public access on a significant section of land between Queen Elizabeth Park and the Akatarawa Forest Park on the Kapiti Coast. Since 2007 more than 50,000 plants have been planted by volunteers. The trust continues to work on projects across the farm, including restoration of native forest and wetland areas.