Northland locals are racing against time to raise money to buy a sacred island put up for tender.

Motukaraka Island, in Hokianga Harbour, is being sold by its owners but local hapu Ngai Tupoto want the land to be a public reserve.

A Go Fund Me page was set up to raise cash to buy the 14.16ha island, which has a land value $85,000.

"The land was transacted without the knowledge of local hapu who were living on the land, and so the struggle began," the page says. "Many Maori had to purchase their land back in order to protect their homes and marae, while others lost it.


"For years, the people of Ngai Tupoto have tried to convince the family who own it to turn it into a reserve because of the sacred history it represents, but they were never interested. Now they are wanting to sell and we're looking for support so we can purchase the island and restore it's mana as a wahi tapu of our people."

More than $24,000 has been raised, including an anonymous $15,000 donation.

Campaign leader Ana Sarich said they'll bid for the land regardless of how much they raise.

According to Ngai Tupoto, the island was a former battlefield.

"It is the site of a massive battle where many many people were killed and were left to lie there when our tupuna defended our lands from attack in the past. Bones still come up there and large numbers have been interred in Remana urupa [cemetery] over the years."

Bayleys real estate agent David Baguley said he had had calls from hapu members interested in buying the land.

The Go Fund Me page said any surplus raised will be put back into the island's preservation.

"As this campaign is aimed at preserving and nurturing places of significance within the Hokianga Harbour, any surplus will be placed into a trust that will continue to do this work."

The tender closes at 2pm today.