Down in the dunes

Coastal restoration Specialist Greg Jenks and Te Puke Forest and Bird chairperson Carole Long in the dunes near the Mount. Photo: Bruce Barnard.

Dune restoration specialist Greg Jenks says healthy dunes play a crucial role in preventing erosion of Tauranga beaches.

Forest and Bird Tauranga is hosting a field trip starting outside Papamoa Domain next Sunday, where Greg will speak about the importance of restoring dunes.

Greg was involved in the development of Coast Care Bay of Plenty in 1995, following its establishment the year before.

Ever since he has been planting native species back into New Zealand dunes.

He says for hundreds of years New Zealand coastal margins were destroyed by human activity, and it has been Coast Care's job to help revive them.

"All we are doing is restoring the plants that were here originally, before human settlement. Over the years, we have found these native plants possess amazing capabilities."

The Kowhangatara, Pingao, Hinarepe and Waiuu-atua are all indigenous salt-tolerant plants that have been planted along Mount Maunganui and Papamoa dunes.

According to Greg, the plants help sand accumulate on beaches and bind it together. This also prevents sand from blowing inland, which can contribute to beach and dune erosion.

"All the dunes in the Bay we have planted have all been building up sand because we have planted those four native plants. On the other hand, beaches that haven't been restored are still eroding," says Greg.

More than one million dune plants have been planted in the Bay of Plenty over 25 years, with the help of about 3500 Coast Care volunteers.

Dunes provide a natural protection of the land from the sea and mean people living near the beach will be safe from erosion, Greg says.

He says they are also home to the NZ dotterel and NZ fairy tern, which are both at threat from extinction.

How can the community help take care of Tauranga dunes? Greg puts it simply.

"Keep off the plants. We need to take particular care of the plants on the foredunes to stop sand from blowing inland - they are doing a really important job."

“And please don’t light fires near dry dune plants.”

Forest and Bird Tauranga volunteer Kate Loman-Smith says the purpose of the field trip is to educate people on the power of using nature as a tool to restore dunes.

"It's a much cheaper and more permanent option. Sea walls need replacing often," says Kate.

"We as humans are good at implementing big-budget, engineered solutions to problems - but in this case, the plants are the answer.”

The field trip begins at 10am on Sunday, December 8, outside Papamoa Surf Life Saving Club. For booking information, click here, or  contact Kate Loman-Smith on 021 657 344 or

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