By Trish Grant, Communications Advisor
Several hundred people came from near and far to celebrate the gifting of the Awaroa “people’s beach” and it becoming part of Abel Tasman National Park.
The beach, bought through a Givealittle crowd funding campaign, was a picture-perfect “slice of paradise” in winter sunshine for the July 10 ceremony.
Duane Major and Adam Gard’ner, who led the fund raising campaign, were there with family and friends to celebrate the dream fulfilled of the beach becoming protected public land.
More than 39,200 people and organisations donated more than $2.2 million to the crowd funding campaign to buy the 7 hectare beach property. The Joyce Fisher Charitable Trust donated $250,000 and a Government contribution of $350,000 from the Nature Heritage Fund helped secure the property.
The DOC Golden Bay and Motueka teams liaised closely with Adam and Duane in organising the celebration. Manawhenua iwi were also closely involved and led a powhiri.
DOC staff upon arriving early to set up were surprised to find the first visitor to the new national park land was a leopard seal. The rare visitor seemed a positive sign but it was a relief when it soon departed, avoiding it being a safety issue.
About 200 guests were joined by about 100 well wishers who had come by boat, water taxi, kayak and on foot to be part of the joyful occasion. Associate Minister of Conservation Nicky Wagner, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith, and West Coast-based MP Maureen Pugh represented the Government.
Minister Wagner told the gathering that the beach had belonged to one person and now it belonged to more than 4.4 million New Zealanders.
“Its area may be small but the beach is something very, very special and all people will be able to come here freely,” she said.
Duane and Adam welcomed national park status for the land.
“We wanted the beach to be for everyone for always. The campaign brought people together and with it now being national park that spirit can continue,” said Adam.
“Seeing the positive and constructive relationship DOC has with iwi and Project Janszoon and how we worked together on this celebration, I feel the beach is in really safe hands,” said Duane.
Plans for how the land will be managed have been discussed with Duane and Adam, manawhenua iwi, the Nelson Marlborough Conservation Board, neighbours and others.
The beach is to be enjoyed on day visits for its natural beauty and serenity.
The sand dune ecology will be restored through DOC’s work with Project Janszoon to restore the Abel Tasman National Park ecology. This will improve the habitat it provides for coastal birds.
Structures and rubbish on site are being removed. Weeds will be cleared and native plants put in.
DOC will work with Duane and Adam and manawhenua iwi to develop interpretation that tells of the area’s Maori history and how people rallied together to buy the beach for all to enjoy as public land.