More than six years after Hawke's Bay's only marine reserve was inundated by landslides, birdlife is returning to the sanctuary, with the help of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The cliffs at Te Angiangi Marine Reserve have been bare since a bad storm in April 2011 when 550mm rainfall and a 4.6 earthquake caused them to collapse.

At the time it was feared the landslips could have altered the landscape of the marine reserve forever.

However, DoC Hawke's Bay biodiversity coastal marine compliance ranger Rod Hansen said the reserve was "looking in pretty good shape".

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"There's still a lot of fill washing from the slips into it but I think it has recovered quite well. There was a lot of work done immediately the year after the slip obviously in terms of replanting and re-vegetating the coast.

"So it has been really good. We have an area taped off to the north of the reserve where the New Zealand dotterels are. We have quite a high birdlife living in there at the moment, and it's quite noticeable that the dotterels are now at both Aramoana and Blackhead, so things are looking pretty good."

The initial work was mostly carried out by machine, taking up logs as fill. The slopes were then re-grassed and 3000 native plants planted.

Ongoing restoration work had been a combined effort from Department of Conservation working with the Aramoana Environmental and Education Charitable Trust and local iwi Ngati Kere.

In the past season, seeds had also been dropped over the hillside with the use of drones.

"We picked flax seed, then flew up on the faces and dropped the seed on the faces. You can see the results of that now, with flax started to grow on the sides."

It was now planned to fly cabbage tree seeds up there, later this year, he said.

"We don't know what sediment levels are out there at the moment but we will be doing some monitoring in there shortly."

Te Angangi Marine Reserve, 30km east of Waipawa, was established in August 1997 and is managed by DoC.

It is the only marine reserve in Hawke's Bay and covers an area of about 1.3 square nautical miles (446 hectares), extending 1 nautical mile offshore from the mean high water mark between Blackhead and Aramoana beaches.

The reserve protects a typical piece of Hawke's Bay coast. At low tide a board rock platform is exposed, giving access to a fascinating variety of marine life, comprising a mix of fauna and flora including crayfish, paua, reef fish such as moki, butterfish, cod and sea coral