Ligar Bay


A small Golden Bay settlement, Ligar Bay, is currently divided over a disagreement about the fate of eight small baches built on council land. A licence which permitted the baches to be built on council owned road reserve is due to expire in 20141, when the baches will be demolished. The moral conflict has resulted in a division of the Golden Bay community.

Ligar Bay. Tasman District Council
Click image to enlarge

Some Ligar Bay inhabitants want the baches removed. A Golden Bay bank manager, Dean Lund, wants them gone2. He has lived across the road from the baches for three years, and bought his land being guaranteed the baches would be removed come 2014. The removal of the baches would provide further beach access and more reserve space. It would also increase the price of his land. He says that the baches are taking up public land and should go.

A claim from Dean Lund and Ligar Bay bach owner, Jim Williamson, that the baches were leaking sewerage and contaminating the beach was later rejected by Tasman District Council's (TDC) water scientist. A storm from the day previous to the day of testing would have contaminated a river which empties onto the beach, making the "results" implausible.3

Meanwhile, the bach owners are vowing to do all they can to stay. And they have support. Lesley and Garth Bray, occupiers of one of the baches, have lived there for 21 years and raised a family in the home. They think it's unfair to have to leave. "It's far too precious, far too important to let go."4

Bruce and Sally Ansley, also occupiers of one of the baches, spend about half a year annually at their bach. They "are not impressed with their treatment by the council."5 Bruce Ansley claimed that other baches in similar situations around New Zealand have been granted extended leases. Baches on the Nelson Boulder Bank recently had their licenses extended until 2018 and ten years ago baches on the Punakaiki foreshore reserve had their licenses renewed for a further 30 years.6 He wants to see a similar outcome at Ligar Bay and cannot find anywhere else in the country where a series of baches in one area are being completely pulled down like this.

The Ansleys and Brays. Golden Bay Weekly, 2011
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Ligar Bay resident, Bernie Kelly, has lived at Ligar Bay for seven years and says he fully supports that the baches remain. "I think TDC has to be very careful what it wishes for here. I haven't seen any plans as to what will replace the baches. Is it going to be more space for freedom campers to park up? Access is not an issue here because there's plenty of it onto the beach already. Personally, I'd like to see the bach owners remain. At least they'd carry on making a significant contribution to the community here."7

The bach owners each pay annual license fees of between $1200 and $1500 to the council; more than the average Ligar Bay rates.8 This shows that families such as the Brays and the Ansleys aren't using this land for free. It's all coming with a price. They are paying annual license fees rather than rates.

A committee meeting held at the Takaka Fire Station on 3 February led the Tasman District Council to their final decision; that the licenses not be renewed. The council said that this decision was "unanimous" after hearing from both sides of the argument.9 They have said individuals have the opportunity to apply for extended leases but the reasons will have to be extreme if they are to be approved.10

Many councillors were sympathetic with the bach owners but the vote was passed unanimously. This was decided because the baches are on public land and there is "an increasing demand to return coastal land to the public."11 The future of the road reserve at Ligar Bay will be subject to what Ligar Bay residents want to see happen. An extension to the current reserve is most likely.

But is this the correct moral decision? The eight baches have played such a significant part in many families' lives. They have been homes to some and holiday homes to others. The baches could house future families and holiday goers, remaining an iconic part of Ligar Bay. An editorial article from the Nelson Mail called it an "ugly" fight12. It seems to be just that.

One bach has already been pulled down. Bach owner, Keith Brown, died in March. His family decided to not take over the lease. It would have cost more than $4000 a year to keep running, and so they ended the lease. The bach was pulled down on Wednesday the 8th of June, 2011.13

Christchurch resident, Elizabeth Smyth, had been staying in the bach after the Canterbury earthquakes and watched it be pulled down. "The whole thing's disgusting," she said. "It's sad. I love the baches. They're part of Ligar Bay."14 Ms Smyth had been staying in the bach because her home in Christchurch had been ruined.

The Tasman District Council has included money in next year's budget for redevelopment of this piece of road reserve.

Perhaps it's a case of "rich out of towners"15 coming in and trying to take over an already established community. Yet these people bought land being guaranteed that the baches were subject to removal in 2014, and that once the baches were gone, the new beach access would increase the price of their properties.

The baches were built before Golden Bay became a popular and iconic tourist destination. They were there long before neighbouring bay, Tata Beach, was the busy, inhabited holiday spot it is today.

The first bach appeared in 1948 when a Mr C.P. Reilly "made application for permission to erect a small three roomed cottage on the Road Reserve at Ligar Bay," on 13 April, 1948 it was approved. A Ligar Bay report from November 1986 read: "Permission be granted to Mr. C.P. Reilly to erect a three roomed cottage on the Ligar Bay Road Reserve, north-eastern side of Nyhane's main gate, subject to the pleasure of the Council and under the supervision of the County Engineer."16

The road reserve was originally farmland which was purchased by the Takaka County Council to construct a road from Takaka to Totaranui. The council at the time decided it would purchase more than the usual 20 metres of land needed for the road. Instead, a 40 metre strip of land was bought. This strip was inclusive of 20 metres for the road plus a further 20 metres from the road to the coastline.17 This resulted in the unused road reserve. Being the quiet place that Ligar Bay was in 1948, it seemed no problem to allow baches and cottages to be built. They were subject to terms and conditions outlined by the council. These conditions, subjective originally to a Mrs. Delany and a Mr Jennings, were:

  1. That the area to be not more than sixty feet wide frontage to the road.
  2. The land to be kept clean to the satisfaction of the council.
  3. All buildings to be sited on an area selected by the County Engineer.
  4. No fences to be erected except with the approval of Council and if allowed, to be placed not more than a maximum of ten feet from the dwelling.
  5. The permit to be revocable without prejudice at the pleasure of the Council and within twenty four hours notice.18

The council has never had problems with bach owners disobeying such conditions.

The bach owners were granted permission to erect their baches between 1948 and the mid-1950s. In 1989 the owners were granted licenses to occupy the council owned road reserve for a further 25 years, due to expire in 2014. Tasman District Council Property Services Manager, Jim Frater, thinks it only fair and law-abiding that they leave. "Both parties knew what the expectation was... They've known for 25 years."19 Tasman District Councillor, Cr. Riley said, "It's not as if they've only had five minutes' notice."20

Yet Frater does expect protest. He said he expects some will leave willingly, knowing that they have had their time there and that it has come time to move on. He said others will probably protest for a while but then peacefully move on regardless. There will also be the few who protest until the very end, to the point where the bach owners remain in their homes so the baches cannot be demolished. The bach owners have gained support from some local Golden Bay residents who have threatened to lie in front of bulldozers to prevent the demolition of the baches, which they believe are iconic features of the Ligar Bay - and Golden Bay - community and history.

In 2011 the decision to remove the baches was reconsidered, but the expiry date of the leases was confirmed and in 2014 remaining baches were removed from the road reserve. In 2016 the reserve was landscaped with picnic tables and public conveniences and replanted.

Sean Maclean, Nayland College, 2011. Updated May 2020

Sources used in this story

  1. Frater, Jim: Tasman District Council Property Services Manager: Interview, 30 May 2011. 
  2. Bach demolition row (2011) Close-up Friday April 22. 
  3. Bach demolition row
  4. Gale, H. (2011, February 4)  Ligar Bay owners of baches vow to fight on. Nelson Mail. retrieved from Stuff:
  5. Hindmarsh, G. (2011, March 9)  Ligar Bay baches. Golden Bay Weekly
  6. Hindmarsh
  7. Hindmarsh
  8. Bach demolition row
  9. Gale (2011, February 4)
  10. Frater
  11. Gale (2011, February 4)
  12. Editorial: compromise needed on Ligar Bay's baches (2011, February 8) Nelson Mail. Retrieved from Stuff:
  13. Gale, H. (2011, June 9) First Ligar Bay bach falls. Nelson Mail, p.1
  14. Gale (2011, June 9) 
  15. Bach demolition row
  16. Ligar Bay Report from November 1986. Obtained through interview with Jim Frater on Monday the 30th of May, 2011.
  17. Frater
  18. Ligar Bay Report, November 1986
  19. Frater
  20. Hindmarsh

Want to find out more about the Ligar Bay ? View Further Sources here.

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  • I am staying at my nephew's bach on Tata Beach (32 Cornwall). I am 82 and wonder if there was a safe mooring place round the corner out of the wind (cf #9 the Gatewood place), that would have existed between Abel Tasman's visit and prior ro the building of the Tarakohe Harbour 1908. I cannot find anything so far at the Takaka Library, any suggestions?

    Posted by Dr Peter McEwen TILLMAN, 21/03/2022 4:04pm (1 year ago)

  • Hi Kathryn
    I would suggest your best bet would be to get in touch with the Golden Bay Museum, using their "Contact" option.

    Posted by Anne McFadgen, 06/06/2016 5:14pm (7 years ago)

  • I am trying to find earlier history of this area. In particular photographs of wool being loaded onto ships. My grandfather was John Liddell Harris who had his farm up behind what was to become the Golden Bay Cement works. There was a homestead there, possibly called "Orissa".
    If necessary, please direct me to a site which could help me. Thank you.

    Posted by Kathryn Mansell, nee Harris, 07/05/2016 11:46am (7 years ago)

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Further sources - Ligar Bay


  •  Gale, H. (2011, June 9) First Ligar Bay bach falls. Nelson Mail, p.1



  • Frater, Jim: Tasman District Council Property Services Manager, 30 May 2011

Tasman District  Council Reports

  • Various reports on the baches are available on Tasman District Council website : search Ligar Bay baches [listed under documents]

Web Resources