Two women who have been campaigning to get the Ngunguru Sandspit returned to public ownership for around 40 years support the latest effort to raise $1.5 million towards buying the land.
Pat Heffey, 85, and Jan Doak, 84, have been wanting the sandspit returned to public ownership since the 1980s, and are supporting a Givealittle campaign to buy 69ha to add to the 83ha already owned by the Crown.
Much of 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 surplus government land and buildings in Napier to gain possession of the significant taonga, 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 still in private ownership.
The Givealittle campaign, if successful, will protect the base of the sandspit, the Rangikorero pa site and the prominent bush-clad Maunga Whakairiora, which is home to unique coastal forest.
The Givealittle campaign seeking $1.5 million of the $3.6m sale price has been organised by the Ngunguru Sandspit Protection Society after it signed a conditional sale-and- purchase agreement with the present owner of the land, development company Templeton Commercial Limited.
Heffey got involved in the campaign in the 1980s.
''Nothing seemed to be happening, people did not seem to be doing anything to protect it. Then we did a petition to council, we wrote it out ourselves and were amazed at the response. People were concerned,'' she said.
''I was a newcomer on the coast. But other people went way back with their concerns and family history.''
Doak, wife of the late internationally esteemed marine environmentalist, diver and author Wade Doak, said ''it just needed somebody like Pat coming along to get us motivated. The thought of having the spit subdivided and built on was the biggest shock.'
''It was not practical what they [the developers at the time were looking at subdivision and building] were promoting. We knew that every once in a while the sea breaches the spit.''
Heffey said they knew the knowledge was spreading when Auckland University started turning up.
"We're really getting somewhere when two lecturers from Auckland turn up with their students. It helped us encourage people to challenge the council, this was good.''
Then the group went to look at what the developers at Omaha were doing.
''It was awful. I was involved with Forest and Bird and I knew people did actually care about the natural environment,'' Heffey said.
Doak said she got involved by just joining in.
"Wade was really good at writing about it. There was a lot of letter writing. We were certainly giving the council a few thoughts,'' she said.
''We brought [Green Party former co-leaders] Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons out
here to have a first-hand look at the spit. [The late] Sonny Wellington was a strong supporter.''
Heffey said they got to know a lot of people in the community who cared and were prepared to do something.
''It was a fabulous community out here then. We'd regularly get write-ups in the paper. I remember one time when the developers had a meeting in the Ngunguru hall. We gathered outside, people just turned up to support us.''
Doak said as the campaign to save the spit developed they became more interested in Whakairiora [the mountain] and its unique ecology, let alone its sacred nature.
''We knew it was tapu and that people had never lived there. I made five trips there with Wade to record the specialness of the place.
''Early on when we used to sail up and down the coast there were not a lot of lights visible at night. That is not the case now, just about all the bays and headlands are lit up at night. But viewed from the sea Whakairiora and Pi Manu [the sandspit] are one of the few areas still not lit up at night.''
Heffey and Doak urge anybody who cares about the sandspit and Whakairiora Mountain to get behind the campaign.
The Givealittle campaign - at givealittle.co.nz/search?q=ngunguru+sandspit - has so far raised almost $102,000.