Some days I’m really proud to be a New Zealander.
This morning I woke to learn that a crowd-funding campaign supported by 39,000 Kiwis (including the Big T and me) has succeeded in buying a beach (1).
Awaroa Inlet Beach, in the Abel Tasman area of Nelson, was put up for sale at the beginning of this year by the family which had owned it for a number of years. During their tenure, they had allowed public access to the beach, but with new ownership came the very real possibility that such access would be taken away.
A couple of guys from the South Island got pretty upset about this, and on January 22nd, launched a Givealittle campaign to raise money to buy the beach and put it into public ownership — so everyone could enjoy this beautiful, pristine area of coastline. The aim was to raise at least NZ$2,000,000. This was achieved, but as the sale was by tender, it was by no means certain the amount would be enough.
Duane Major and Lincoln Churchill set up the Givealittle campaign to buy Awaroa Inlet Beach for all New Zealand. Image courtesy of The Press, 16 February, 2016.
This morning we found out that it was. With a little extra help from an anonymous donor and the NZ Government, New Zealanders have asserted control over our land and added an extra beach to the Abel Tasman National Park.
It may seem frivolous and very “First World” to buy a beach. After all, just a few days ago our Fijian neighbours were struck by Tropical Cyclone Winston, which killed at least 29 people, left many thousands homeless and has wrecked untold damage on Fiji’s vital tourist industry.
But what we have done carries symbolic as well as practical significance. New Zealanders have traditionally been incredibly egalitarian people. Until it began to be dismantled in the 1990s, health, education and welfare systems genuinely worked, to everyone’s benefit, and the notion of the wealthy few excluding the many from our beautiful landscapes would have been unthinkable. It seems it still is.
The Awaroa Beach campaign has taken the abstract concepts of fairness, equality, even democracy; and given them form and power. It has shown how ordinary people are using new technologies (social media, online fundraising, etc) to bring about change.
It has shown that there is hope; something that is much-needed as our government prepares to ratify the TPPA agreement.
And I’d be willing to bet that many of the people who pledged money towards buying Awaroa Beach are also digging deep to help the people of Fiji. That’s what Kiwis do.