Another slice of Kiwi coastal paradise could be headed for the open market after the Department of Conservation turned down the chance to buy it.
Picturesque Elliot Bay, 30km east of Russell in the Bay of Islands, has been a popular camping and surfing hidey-hole for decades.
Seventy-five-year-old John Elliot owns the 720ha farm which backs on to the private beach named for his family. It includes a basic campsite that attracts about 200 campers every summer.
Holidaymakers have been crossing the family's land to pitch tents at the isolated bay for more than 60 years, and it is also popular with surfers.
Elliot's father took up the farm as a Crown leasehold in the early 1930s and freeholded it about 20 years later. The oldest records available showed the farm had a capital value of £4000 in 1946, equivalent to $321,000 today.
Elliot, his wife and their adult children want to sell all but about 50ha and offered DoC first dibs.
The family said they would not take less than $15 million, which Elliot said was a discount on the $20m-plus they believed the holding was worth.
But DoC turned down the offer, meaning the property will now go on the open market, likely early next year, Elliot said.
"Everyone in the family wants to see it left as it is. That's why we went to DoC. I'm interested in the public response. If this beach is closed there will be a public uproar."
He understood DoC was dealing with public money, but his family had offered a discount and the chance to pay the purchase off over 20 years.
Elliot did not know what price the property would fetch on the open market. It has a Government valuation of $6m-$8m.
But he believed the sale of a Helena Bay site 27km away to Russian billionaire Alexander Abramov for $15.9m had set a "benchmark for the area". He was approached by an agent working for Abramov before the steel magnate bought the site on which he has built a 3000sq m mansion, and was told his farm was worth $15m-$18m. He did not want to sell at that time.
There were no covenants protecting the Elliot farm and Far North District Council district plan manager Greg Wilson confirmed development was possible.
Any development would be subject to resource consent. Criteria would include meeting standards, such as those relating to scale, site access and visual impacts.
"Building on it is certainly a consent issue but would be tempered through assessment process. Subdivision is a more difficult in that location."
A development similar to that of Abramov's was not likely to be possible, Wilson said.
DoC's Far North partnerships manager, Carolyn Smith, said the department seriously considered the family's offer and applauded their "generosity in sharing their beautiful piece of New Zealand with the public".
But the farm's conservation values did not meet the required threshold for purchase, and five other department campsites in the area meant the purchase could not be justified on recreational grounds, she said.
A string of camping grounds at some of Kiwis' favourite beaches are already on the market, including Coromandel favourites Hahei Holiday Resort and Whangamata Motor Camp.
In Auckland, there has been a massive show of community support for the retention of the Takapuna Beach Holiday Park. A total of 80 per cent of respondents to a local board survey last week asked that it be saved.