Eveline Harvey is nzherald.co.nz's travel editor.

A fair dinkum raffle for those who dared to dream

Truth really is stranger than fiction when you're giving away a tropical paradise, writes Eveline Harvey.

The Beitz family's multi-million-dollar Kosrae Nautilus Resort in Micronesia has been raffled off in a competition that captured the world's attention. Photo / Supplied
The Beitz family's multi-million-dollar Kosrae Nautilus Resort in Micronesia has been raffled off in a competition that captured the world's attention. Photo / Supplied

In the end, the winning of possibly the greatest raffle ever devised couldn't have been more delightfully down-to-earth.

The Australian couple that captured the world's attention with an unconventional plan to transfer ownership of their Pacific Island resort, sat at a computer just after 9pm NZST yesterday and used random.org to select the number of the winning ticket.

There was a hush as the dimly-lit live stream on Facebook showed Doug Beitz - hitherto owner (with his wife Sally) of the prize being offered - dialling the lucky punter's phone number.

However the person who answered was clearly not the person who had entered the raffle, setting up an amusing exchange as Beitz valiantly attempted to protect the winner's identity.

Remember, the prize at stake was not your average school fair hamper but a multi-million-dollar Micronesian island resort, complete with eight vehicles, a fully-stocked restaurant and US$10,000 in the resort's business account.

"Hello, this is Doug here from Kosrae Island Nautilus Resort in Micronesia. Did you enter a competition that we had running?"

Imagine for a moment you hadn't entered the competition and you received a phone call like that. You'd probably be suspicious. You might think it was a scam.

I've no idea how the mystery person on the other end of the line responded, but Beitz persevered: "I'm actually looking for, there's a person, a male person at the house ... and I just, we're, we're ... he's won a prize in a competition and I just don't want to say his name 'cause we're drawing this live ..."

The poor guy must have been itching to blurt out the truth, but that was even stranger than the obfuscation.

Eventually it became apparent that the holder of lucky ticket number 44980 was "not home at present".

Beitz, perhaps a little disappointed that the live streaming event hadn't resulted in a bonafide winner on the other end of the line, said he would try calling back later ... but not before unintentionally dropping a few more choice tidbits of potential scam fodder into the conversation.

"Ok, what time is it there now?"

"Calling from, ummm, Kosrae Nautilus Resort. In Micronesia."

"Ok, well, the name I've got is for a man ... so, how many people live in that house?"

It was at this point the live feed cut out, leaving the many raffle hopefuls following proceedings on Facebook speculating amongst themselves about who the lucky winner was.

It seemed a bit of an anti-climax after the international media storm the Beitzs' madcap competition had whipped up.

Who said giving away an island resort would be easy?

Doug and Sally Beitz decided to say goodbye to their Micronesian island home to spend more time with their family back in Australia. Photo / David Clark, News Corp Australia
Doug and Sally Beitz decided to say goodbye to their Micronesian island home to spend more time with their family back in Australia. Photo / David Clark, News Corp Australia

Then suddenly, more videos appeared. Off-camera, someone had obviously convinced the person on the other end of the phone that this improbable conversation was legitimate.

Another phone number for the raffle ticket holder was procured and Beitz tried dialling once more.

The pleasantries were dealt with, and then: "Mate, did you enter into a competition? Yeah, well guess what happened? You won it."

There was cheering at the raffle draw site and, I'm guessing, disbelief on the other end of the phone.

"Yes mate, yeah ... you're on Facebook live right now," Beitz told him. "We're not sort of saying your name or anything just yet. I need to talk to you about that because you're going to get a lot of media attention very shortly, I can tell you ... yeah, it's real."

Of course, that's the one thing the spectators on social media really did want to know. Who was the lucky chap whose number had come up? Were they from India or Tanzania or Slovakia or Oman? Tickets to the raffle were bought by people in more than 150 countries, anything was possible.

After getting the go ahead from the winner, Beitz told Facebook the basics.

"His name is Joshua and he's from Australia ... he's from New South Wales."

The assembled crowd at raffle-central cheered once more.

"I'm gonna let you get your thoughts together," Beitz told Joshua " ... and we'll talk a bit more about what's in store for you."

He stopped and listened for a second to the man whose life had just been changed forever. The man who'd improbably bought a NZ$71 ticket and won a slice of paradise.

"It is mate," Beitz concurred after a moment. "It is somethin' else."

- nzherald.co.nz

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