Most of those who are driving the Ahipara Beach Community Coastcare Project are well and truly past their school days, but the current generation of children might well be their staunchest allies in the years to come, and one day their successors.
That gave added significance to a gathering of senior pupils from Ahipara School on the beach last week for the official launch of a dotterel sanctuary site, "Tuturiwhatu Pukenui Punanga".
Te Runanga o Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi laid down a rahui over the area and placed the first sign in the ground as students, DOC workers, NRC representatives and interested locals looked on. The signs were made by school pupils, the prizes for the best, five-day stays at any Far North DOC camp for them and their families, going to Lara Thompson, Jacob Tilson and Callum Mekkelholt.
Teacher Keriana Te Paa said the children had enjoyed their educational classes with DOC and Ahipara resident Doug Klever about the dotterels that had begun breeding on the beach.
"It makes them aware of the environment they live in and gets them to take pride in their community," she said.
Collaboration between the Coastal Care group and the school began with last year's removal of rubbish from an area of dunes known as The Bowl. Ms Te Paa's class prepared an appeal to Far North District Council to do something about the use of the area as an unofficial dump, but the community responded quickly, volunteers (and Kaitaia's Community Business and Environment Centre) taking it upon themselves to do the job.
Mr Piripi made it clear he appreciated the value of the children's concern when he spoke at last week's launch.
"You are the best ambassadors of this job in front of us all," he said.
"You will strengthen and acknowledge this place. And the best thing is that we are combining the knowledge of both Maori and Pakeha and many different organisations here together today."
Tuturiwhatu Pukenui Punanga will be managed and supported by Te Runanga o Te Rarawa, Ahipara School, Ahipara Community Coast Care and DOC, and no one was more excited than Mr Klever.
"This is a momentous occasion, but it's only the start of the creation of a living beach," he said.
"The sanctuary is dedicated to the enjoyment of current and future generations. This area will be dedicated to the preservation of the endangered New Zealand dotterel and all native coastal species so these species and the beach can recover from over-use and other threats."
He was also quick to offer an assurance that no one who did not intend to do the beach or dunes harm would be restricted or inconvenienced in any way.
"People will still be able to drive on to the beach as they always have done," he said.
"All we ask is that they drive down to below the high tide mark and keep their vehicles there, and that they do not exceed 30km/h.
"Apart from that people will be free to do whatever they want, and what they have always done.
"What we're trying to do is get rid of the hoons in an environmentally precious and sensitive area. We're not restricting anyone else, just the idiots."
Meanwhile, after last week's sign "planting", the children were broken up into groups for activities including clearing rubbish from the beach, accompanying Mr Klever to see how a dotterel protective nest was made and a tutorial on beach care and the environment from NRC staff, followed by a sausage sizzle laid on by DOC.
Tuturiwhatu Pukenui Punanga extends from the southern bank of the Wairoa River where it meets the beach to a point 700 metres north of the Kaka Street access point. Seven New Zealand dotterels currently live within that area.
The activities that are prohibited within te punanga are skurfing on the Wairoa River, taking or disturbing any foreshore life, feeding birds and fish (which alters their natural feeding behaviour), driving faster than 30km/h or above the high tide mark.
Surveillance will be carried out by DOC and honorary rangers.