It's a battle that's taken 56 years and counting, but a new campaign could finally see a bush-clad maunga adjoining Ngunguru Sandspit put into public ownership and saved from development.
Ngunguru Sandspit was put into public ownership in 2012 when the government of the day acquired the property from Todd Property Group, formerly known as Landco.
The Department of Conservation swapped a parcel of surplus government land and buildings in Napier to gain possession of the sandspit, which was then put into public ownership.
The land swap came after years of campaigning by the Ngunguru Sandspit Protection Society, but concerns remained for the southern end and Whakairiora Mountain, which were both still in private ownership.
Now a Givealittle campaign has been launched that, if successful, will see a further 69 hectares of the unique, culturally significant coastal landscape added to the 83 hectares of the sandspit that was obtained by the Crown.
In particular, it will protect the base of the sandspit, the Rangikorero pa site and the prominent bush-clad Maunga Whakairiora, which is home to a unique sequence of coastal forest.
The purchase price is $3.6 million, and a Givealittle campaign seeking $1.5 million towards it has been organised by the Ngunguru Sandspit Protection Society after it signed a conditional sale and purchase agreement with the present owners of the land, development company Templeton Commercial Limited.
Society chairperson Jim Kilpatrick said the purchase would end a long battle by the Ngunguru community to protect the land from development. Landco, a previous owner, had once proposed a residential subdivision of 350 lots on the sandspit.
That prospect was what led to the formation of the Society in 2007 and an intensive pressure campaign to persuade the Government to buy 152 hectares including all of the sand spit and Whakairiora, Kilpatrick said.
That campaign resulted in 83 hectares, the tip and mid-section of the spit, being acquired by the Crown in exchange for the old Napier hospital site. The Society then tried to broker a further land exchange but a suitable property could not be found.
The land changed hands again in 2019 when the Todd corporation sold to Templeton.
Kilpatrick said the society had, with the co-operation of the new owner, been able to negotiate a conditional sale and purchase agreement that if all funding can be found by mid-February would see the purchase concluded in March 2022.
The 69 hectares would be owned by the Crown and jointly managed by the Department of Conservation, tangata whenua and the community.
Ngunguru Sandspit has significant historical, cultural and natural values and is home to 36 bird species, including godwits which migrate there annually. Whakairiora Mountain has biodiversity featuring a unique forest association of kawaka, kauri, kowhai, matai and pohutukawa.
The Givealittle campaign - at givealittle.co.nz/search?q=ngunguru+sandspit - has so far raised $43,000.