Elliot Bay, just east of Russell and about a three-hour drive out of Auckland has been a beloved destination to a multitude of families and holiday-goers for generations. Despite it being privately owned, the existing owners - John and Christine Elliot - have allowed public access to the coastal land. Now that the Elliot Farm is up for sale, there are fears that the land will be sectioned and public access will be partially, if not completely, restricted.
The Ipipiri Nature Conservatory Trust, headed up Kiwi businessman Geoff Ricketts, has been in talks with the Elliot family since late 2018. The Trust, who initially saw the land up for sale, knew it would be a tragedy if a piece of Northland coastline was severed and cut off from public use. They have already secured a substantial amount of funding from the NEXT Foundation, led by Neal and Annette Plowman, winners of the Kea World Class New Zealand Supreme Award in 2018. Significant funding has also been raised through locals, and people who have “fallen in love with the north,''. Ricketts is now looking for final donors to raise an extra $3.3m to reach their funding target of $9.3m by the end of March. Of the $3.3 million the Trust has an application in with Foundation North for $2 million.
Should they succeed, the key goals of the trust are to maintain public beach access to Elliot Bay, and to eventually develop a series of walks including a multi-day track connecting Cape Brett with Russell State Forest. This would be the first great walk to be established in Northland, which would generate employment opportunities for the local communities and enable increased access to beautiful parts of the Northland East Coast.
Although the land has been privately owned for almost a century, the area is rich in Māori heritage. Historically, it was a centre of Māori occupation and there remains an emotional attachment to the land. The Elliot Bay property holds a number of landmarks of traditional significance in respect of the spiritual and cultural values of Māori. Fellow trustee Robert Willoughby said the purchasing of the property could serve as a model of collaboration between Māori and private landowners, as well as agencies such as the Department of Conservation.
The Elliot family have rejected larger offers from private buyers as they wanted to see the land preserved and accessible to the public for generations to come, and fully support the walkway proposal, with Christine Elliot saying, “We want to leave the land with somebody who is going to preserve and conserve. We want to leave it in the hands of a good steward”. Local iwi, the Department of Conservation, and the Far North District Council have all pledged their support to the trust.
The Ipipiri Nature Conservatory Trust has until the end of March to raise sufficient funds to buy the property. If you wish to donate or find out more information email [email protected]