Crowdfunding campaign raises $2.2m to buy beach

Awaroa Beach was marketed by real estate agents late last year as the "best on the planet". PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Awaroa Beach was marketed by real estate agents late last year as the "best on the planet". PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Push to turn private beach in New Zealand into national park attracts 40,000 donations

WELLINGTON • A New Zealand man behind an ambitious crowdfunding campaign that raised NZ$2.3 million (S$2.2 million) to buy a privately owned South Island beach has said he was stunned by its success.

Mr Duane Major's push to take Awaroa Beach out of private hands and make it a national park quickly went viral, attracting 40,000 donations.

Mr Major, a pastor who refers to himself as "an ordinary bloke", described the response to his givealittle.co.nz page as heartwarming.

"I always thought we could do it but I didn't anticipate what a crazy, heartwarming ride it would be," he said yesterday.

"It's really tapped into a community spirit among New Zealanders. I've been getting poems from schoolkids talking about our beach. It gives me goosebumps."

Awaroa Inlet is an 800m stretch of golden sand adjoining the Abel Tasman National Park at the top of the South Island.

Accessible only by boat or helicopter, it came on the market late last year with real estate agents promoting it as "the best beach on the planet".

Mr Major decided after discussions with relatives over Christmas that a crowdfunding page was "certainly worth a shot".

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders agreed, and Givealittle said it had become the country's largest-ever crowdfunding effort, raising more than NZ$1 million in a single day.

"It's the largest campaign we've facilitated by a long way," said a spokesman.

Mr Major said donations ranged from children giving a dollar to corporations pledging tens of thousands. The government chipped in NZ$350,000 earlier this week to get the campaign over the line and the tender offer was formally accepted on Wednesday.

Mr Major said he was overjoyed at preserving "a slice of paradise" for future generations and was already considering more crowdfunding conservation campaigns.

"We were celebrating last night and I was yakking to a guy with a big beard called Mike and he said, 'Wouldn't it be good to do it again?', " he said.

"I told him I'm just trying to catch my breath now, but I could feel the energy coming back."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2016, with the headline 'Crowdfunding campaign raises $2.2m to buy beach'. Print Edition | Subscribe