Hundreds have gathered in a last-ditch protest to save a pristine, world-renowned Coromandel beach from development.

New Chums Beach has been consistently ranked among the world's best, and it is one of the few left unspoiled on the peninsula.

Three days remain (the deadline is Tuesday) to make public submissions on a housing development on the beach north of Whitianga under the Resource Management Act.

The plan has been put forward by a Queenstown developer, who owns land down to the high-tide mark.

Locals filled Whitianga's town hall this week to organise mass public submissions, and more than 4500 people have joined a Facebook campaign against the development.

Twenty houses are planned, with eight of them tucked around an otherwise isolated and untouched bay. A boatshed and ramp are to be built towards the beach's northern end.

At present the beach can be reached only by wading across an adjacent bay at low tide, then scrambling over hundreds of boulders and climbing a slippery mud track.

The half-hour trek ends at the top of an ancient pa site, where just the sound of rolling waves breaks through a hole in the foliage.

An amber arc of wet sand cups a clear blue bay 1km wide, and a dark native forest shelters it from any hint of civilisation.

Lonely Planet judged New Chums Beach among the world's best, Britain's Observer ranked it in the world's top 20 deserted beaches, and National Geographic called it one of New Zealand's most beautiful locations.

An independent landscape assessment filed by the developer says five of the proposed houses would be visible from parts of the beach.

But strict controls on designs for the houses and boatshed mean they would "avoid significant perceived change" in the character or quality of the beach, the report says.

Linda Cholmondeley-Smith, whose family has had a close connection to the beach for four generations, said the report missed the point.

"It's so untouched you could be on another planet. With 20 houses, and just a few people in each, you'd get the music, the lawnmowers - all the sounds of housing."

A century ago, her grandparents owned the land, farming an area out of sight from the beach. They had to sell most of it in 1929 because of ill-health and a tough economy, but they kept a section for the public walking track.

"The beauty of it is there's nothing but the sounds of nature. But we're very close to losing it," Ms Cholmondeley-Smith said.

"If we're going to save New Chums, this is it. This is the last chance. If the development goes forward, we will never, ever get it back."

Ngati Hei's Peter Johnston has ties with the beach going back even further. The iwi had a stake in the land until August 1858.

"It's a special piece of whenua," he said. "Of all the beaches, if they could just leave this one alone. It's the only unspoilt one left in the region."

The entrance to the beach is flanked by bluffs stained a deep wine-red. Canopies of 500-year-old pohutukawa twist over a bed of soft, white sand.

The developer, John Darby, did not return calls by the Weekend Herald this week but has previously said it is a personal project and he would not make any money out of it.

He has made many concessions, moving house locations and marking an area closest to the beach for protection under a covenant.

But nearby resident Bob Nicholls, who was at the beach taking a stroll, wanted far greater compromises.

"If they should build here, then no roads, no cars, no lawnmowers, no dogs, no pets. Only a track wide enough for a golf cart."

Also at the beach was Christine Butler, from Auckland, a semi-retired nurse travelling the country by caravan with her husband, Garth.

"We've travelled around New Zealand and when you see something like this, you expect it to be protected," Mrs Butler said.

The meeting at Whitianga's town hall on Wednesday brought together hundreds of locals who diligently took notes on how best to lay complaints.

Residents took turns at the microphone - which kept cutting out all evening - putting the Environmental Defence Society, the Thames-Coromandel Mayor and their local MP all at the sharp end of their grumblings.

Many, however, refused to use the untrustworthy electronics. "I don't need it. I was a schoolteacher," said one woman, who filled the hall calling for a formal motion about where hearings should be held.

David Hall, managing director of Coromandel tourism operator Encounter New Zealand, told the meeting visitors consistently picked New Chums as their most memorable New Zealand experience.

"It's an experience you can't get in many places in the world."

A resident said the beach was as iconic as Mt Cook and epitomised New Zealand's image of clean, green wilderness.

Photographer Peter Latham said he was amazed by the developers' statement that boats would only be launched by hand from the ramp.

"These owners of multimillion-dollar properties will come down from Remuera in their new Range Rovers and helicopters, and I don't think they're going to be launching dinghies. Let's get real."

Ms Cholmondeley-Smith said that if public submissions against the development failed to convince independent Resource Management Act commissioners, residents would have to raise $100,000 to take the case to the Environment Court.

Either that or an intervention from the Government, she said.

Coromandel's National MP, Sandra Goudie, said the development had gone through all the right processes. "It's a difficult one, but it keeps coming back to that point, that it's private property."

The Government could not afford to buy the beach because there were many wonderful places in New Zealand and it already owned more than 50 per cent of the country, she said.

"It's a beautiful beach but we're blessed with a huge coastline of beautiful beaches, and there are plenty more along the coast; they're just not accessible."

Ms Goudie suggested that opponents of the development offer to buy the property using money from an international online fundraiser.