A piece of coastal paradise will remain forever in public hands after a 2ha section of beachfront land was bought by the Napier and Hastings city councils and the Hawke's Bay Regional Council.
The councils each contributed $300,000 to the purchase of the Waipatiki Beach Holiday Park, buying the land, buildings and business, with the ownership sitting with the regional council.
A lease of the camping business will ensure it continues as a favourite camping spot and pays for its own costs and a clause means the land can never be sold into private hands.
At an afternoon tea with Napier mayor Bill Dalton, regional council chairman Rex Graham, Hastings councillor Tania Kerr, former camp site owners Anne and Bill Perry and former MP Chris Tremain on Wednesday (November 16), Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule said he was very pleased that the councils had been able to complete the purchase.
"Unless councils or other organisations across New Zealand put their hands up, there will come a time when very special pieces of land like this will be out of the public's reach".
He said the Perrys could not be thanked enough for agreeing to participate in a public purchase process to ensure the land remained available to residents and visitors. It had taken more than five years for the process to get to this point.
"You have been really very patient. It would have been a great deal simpler for you if you had sold this land privately, and there is no doubt you would have achieved a much greater price for it. Your fervent wish that this pass into public hands is a very special wish that between us all we have managed to realise."
Napier mayor Bill Dalton said having the land in public hands "is a testament to our ability to co-operate and come up with a very special result. This is fantastic"
Mr Graham agreed that the land was best held in public hands. His family had regularly stayed in the camp ground and "I would have been very disappointed if families like ours could not have continued to do so".
Mr Perry said bookings showed that the camp was predominantly used by Hawke's Bay people (70 per cent), with the second biggest numbers coming from Manawatu. They were seeing the second generation of youngsters coming through the camp since setting it up in the 1980s.
Project champion and Hastings councillor Tania Kerr was "absolutely thrilled" at the result. "I love that in two and three hundred years from now it will still be public land and we will have had six or seven more generations of children playing here."
The Perry family had owned the original farm since Mr Perry's grandmother "drew" the 404ha in 1910. The majority of the farm was sold in the 1970s, leaving 28ha.
Mr Perry said they had first had the idea of turning 2ha along the beachfront into a campground in the 1950s. It took another 30 years to realise the dream and the joy that families had had since could not be stressed enough.
"There are lots of places where camps like this are being sold, developed and then they can no longer be used by the public. We did not want to see this happen here. We really enjoy seeing families get such a lot of fun out of it. We wanted that to continue."
Mr Tremain said the Perry's very clear wish was that it became a public asset, despite understanding that they would receive a greater price on the private market. He said newer houses in Waipatiki on a 400sq m section could sell for more than $900,000.
"This block has its own beach access, beautiful views, its own river boundary and it can be used by hundreds of families. It is an exceptional piece of land that now the public will own it forever."