New Zealanders raise millions to buy beach and donate it to the public

Awaroa beach — which was open to all — in New Zealand's Abel Tasman National Park was privately held by Michael Spackman (a businessman embroiled in complex financial shenanigans) who had decided to sell it; two New Zealanders, fearing that the new owners would use it as a private beach, started a crowdfunding campaign that raised about NZ$2.3m from some 40,000 people to buy it and donate it to the country's national parks system.

During the campaign, a "philanthropist" called Gareth Morgan offered to make up a likely shortfall with a "donation" that would grant him and his family exclusive access to a stretch of the beach, suggesting that he is unclear on the concepts of philanthropy and donations.

More significantly, the campaigners came to an arrangement with indigenous Maori people who claimed the lands were traditional territory (including a burial ground) that had been stolen by the New Zealand government. The trust that now oversees the land has recognised the Maori claim and given them a say in its future destiny.

In a ceremony today, attended by campaign founders Duane Major and Adam Gard'ner and many others, the beach was officially declared to be in public hands.

The sale of the seven-hectare property with 800 metres of pristine coastline was confirmed at the end of February, with the Government putting in $350,000 and the Joyce Fisher Charitable Trust giving $250,000.

This brought the final sale price to $2.8m.

Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner said the beach's addition to Abel Tasman National Park was "a special day for New Zealand".

"It's a victory for positive people power and for preserving our environment.

"All those who contributed have given a wonderful gift to our nation."

Wagner said the beach was now protected forever, with public access guaranteed.

New Zealand beach bought by crowdfunding is given to public

(Image: Waiheke Island, Ingolfson, PD)