Only around 11 percent, or about 20,000 ha, of New Zealand duneland areas are left in their original state. The associated coastal foredune vegetation has also experienced a large contraction in its distribution. Coastal foredunes are vulnerable to multiple modifying forces such as urban development, forestry, farming, pests, off-road vehicles and exotic plants. For these reasons dunelands are identified as a national priority ecosystem for protection under the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement.
Four years ago a 16.6 ha coastal strip running alongside Whangaimoana Beach at Palliser Bay was covenanted with the Trust. The strip contains duneland, steepland (precipitous slopes), and a small wetland stream area above Whangaimoana Beach. Many coastal flora species that have been grazed out elsewhere exist here, including spinifex, toetoe, NZ spinach, tauhinu (cottonwood), and natural areas of native pingao. The area is a typical habitat for sea birds, moths, katipo spiders and reptiles, and forms part of a larger coastal habitat for banded dotterel and the Caspian tern.
Covenanting the area was the dying wish of its former owner, Hugh Prickett. Although in very poor health he wanted to do something to permanently protect the duneland from future development. He was concerned about the dunes’ drift across his paddocks and had put in considerable effort to help stabilize them. The Trust worked closely with Mr Prickett to fast-track the registration process and he was able to see his wish fulfilled shortly before he passed away.
Local residents, Alastair Sutherland and Sarah Barton, were given permission by Mr Prickett to establish a care group with Greater Wellington Regional Council to carry out restoration work at the site. The group continues to work with new owners, the Warren family.
Alastair and Sarah call on willing volunteers, including school children from the local Pirinoa School, for planting days and ongoing control of marram grass. Already thousands of native sand-binding plants have been put in, enhancing and stabilizing this special strip of coastal habitat. The local Rotary club has also contributed funds and many volunteer hours to the project.