‘Way out West’ – report by Saffron Toms

1 Comment 08 October 2014

Saffron Toms at NZ Dunes Trust Conference 2014

Saffron Toms at NZ Dunes Trust Conference 2014

Saffron Toms – Waitakere Ranges Local Board member attended the NZ Dunes Restoration Trust of NZ Conference in February this year.  Here is her report which is on the WRLB Agenda for 9th October 2014 Meeting.

Report on the Annual Conference of the Dunes Restoration Trust, 2014, “Way out West”, hosted in Taranaki

“In March, 2014 the Dunes Restoration Trust held its annual conference in Taranaki. Responding to requests from coastal restoration enthusiasts in the community, I travelled to Taranaki to attend the conference. This report is the formal feedback requested in the initial decision for me to attend, as the Environment portfolio holder and representative of the Board.

The Dunes Restoration Trust, or “The Dunes Trust” was set up in 2007. It is a charitable trust whose aim is to continue the work of the Coastal Dune Restoration Network. The collective portfolio of the 13 trustees reflects a range of backgrounds and worldviews, including coastal geomorphology, botany, governance and raranga.

Central to the Dunes Trust restoration network is the existence of community based, “Coast Care”, dune restoration groups. There are approximately 130 Coast Care Groups in New Zealand, with the majority in the North Island, and two in the Auckland Region, Piha Coast Care and Te Henga-Bethells Beach Care Group (see attached).

The Taranaki conference was well supported by the District and Regional Councils of the host area and DoC also had a presence. Day one was entirely spent at the Fitzroy surf club where we heard from New Plymouth District Council’s Deputy Mayor, Heather Dudonski, as well as presentations of restoration projects and research from Regional Council officers and Coast Care groups from around the country. It was really interesting to see the detailed data held by the Regional Council, including current and sediment transfer models, among many others.

It was fascinating to hear about the different restoration projects around the country, and the challenges and successes. A key learning for me from this day was the plight of Pingao. The gene pool of pingao has dramatically declined over the last hundred years or more, so we must put more emphasis on eco-sourcing any new plants in order to try to protect local variations.

Day two was all about visiting sites in the area that we had heard about in the presentations the day before. These field trips revealed just how difficult restoration efforts can be in the high energy environs of the wild, west coast. Visiting the different sites of restoration efforts revealed that despite sharing the same high energy coast as well as relative proximity, there is huge variation in the challenges and opportunity across sites.

At Sandy Bay, for example, the wind never stops blowing against the steep dunes. Buried beneath them are large pipes that transport extremely flammable gas to the processing plant a kilometre up the road. They have been made extraordinarily steep by the old-school approach of introducing Marram grass to rebuild them, and restoration efforts have been trying. Wind has cut out canyons in the dunes, creating a highly unstable environment, with towering cliffs of unstable sand. With few new plantings taking hold, the reintroduction of native species requires patience, and trial and error. It was heartening to see the perseverance of communities in light of such challenges.

In another spot, on the “surf highway”, we looked at the Arawhata herb fields, one of only four sites in NZ to contain the “Taranaki” moth. The herb fields sit at the end of a large paddock environment. The land is flat, covered in Kikuyu, with a barely recognisable shallow river channel in it.

“The area provides important habitat for the at-risk, declining and regionally rare Pygmy forgetmenot (Mysotis pygmaea) and the Threatened- Nationally Vulnerable Crassula manaia” (Honnor, 2014).

Our group was asked to help the effort by “freeing” some of the plantings. Ten minutes later we had freed approximately 200 flaxes from the smothering grass.  At the herb fields, a conference attendee from the Deep South told us how he lost approximately 100 acres to the sea in one year, only to find that it rebuilt itself after a few years.


Apart from the speech from the Deputy Mayor, I believe I was the only elected representative attending the conference. My attendance was highly valued by trustees and organisers. I think there is appetite for more elected representative involvement.

There are members of our community who put significant personal resource into coastal restoration efforts. Council support is invaluable here, as is ensuring that the community at large is involved or has “buy-in”. There is a role for Councils to support by assisting with expert knowledge, participating in coastal restoration networks and plans, hosting or co-hosting community days for planting and information sharing, as well as practical support such as storage facilities, tools and plants, etc.

I thought the Conference was an invaluable opportunity for coastal restoration groups around the country to connect and learn from one another. In light of how much of our Coastline has been modified and degraded, and the important role the Coast plays in protecting the land, networking opportunities such as these are important to empower communities to make the change they want to. Moreover, with the very real challenges of climate change, these kinds of networks will be essential to build community resilience in the face of increasing extreme weather events.”

Read the Waitakere Ranges Decision on Dunes Management on Piha Beach 


Sign on beach in Taranaki I rather enjoyed

Your Comments

1 comment

  1. Suzie says:

    Interesting report. Thank you volunteers.

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