The parents of a young girl killed by a shark are continuing to rebuild their lives by opening a campground meters from a popular beach. Seven-year-old Alysha Webster died after she was attacked while swimming in shallow water off a remote island in Vanuatu three years ago.
Her parents, Grant and Sheree, and siblings, Jessica, 12, and James, 8, from Whenuakite in the Coromandel, are still reeling from their loss.
In a bid to unite families and honour their daughter’s memory, the former dairy farmers bought a nursery at Hot Water Beach and have worked hard since December to transform it into a holiday destination.
“It’s a perfect place for a campground,” said Sheree. “It has native trees and is meters from the beach. The locals are stoked.”
Alysha was swimming about 50m off Malekula Island during a family holiday when the shark attacked. The campground’s logo, which has yet to be completed, will incorporate a Monarch butterfly in Alysha’s memory, Sheree said. “We want people to get back to family. We want to bring families together by have them slowing down for two weeks in the sun.”
The holiday park will also give the family a much-needed excuse to spend more time at the beach this summer. “Unless family is with us, we don’t go to the beach much,” Sheree said. “We get caught up in life.” The Websters believe the traditional Kiwi camping holiday remains popular.
Grant grew up in Mercury Bay and watched many camping grounds at Hot Water Beach make way for multimillion-dollar beaches. And with more than 100 inquiries it seems not everyone wants, or can afford, a holiday in the lap of luxury.
The Websters have subdivided their dairy farm and planted 2500 avocado trees. They plan to keep their horticulture business and eventually employ managers to run their holiday park.