National volunteer organisation Coast Care has been working on understanding and restoring NZ coastlines for decades, and this year their annual conference was held in Whanganui for the first time.
Delegates saw the award-winning work Whanganui locals have already done. Now, support from Te Pūwaha means further progress.
The iwi-led Whanganui Port development gave the go-ahead for Coast Care to plant foredunes at Morgan St to stop sand blocking the road.
Morgan St and Castlecliff Main beach have been managed by continuous and costly grading for decades. The council has been reluctant to take away carparking and drive-on access for the public, even though lack of foredunes create constant sand shifts that threaten infrastructure and property.
Coastal scientist Jim Dahm explained at the conference the lack of understanding of dune restoration.
"If you sit down in front of the average council, district council, city council, doesn't really matter, I would say 80 per cent of the councillors you're dealing with will be locked into the historic management thing and probably 80 per cent of the community so it's a thing we have to work through," Dahm said.
In Whanganui, Morgan St will benefit from the port development because it includes Morgan St beach and the moles. Iwi have decided to follow the advice of experts and kaitiaki giving the go-ahead to re-establish the dunes.
Whether the foredunes at Main Beach will be restored is up to the council, which is still working through the plan.
Coast Care says it is clear that sustainability means re-planting bare sand and replacing well-intentioned but damaging exotic plantings with natives like spinifex and pīngao.
"From an iwi perspective, you put the environment first and so they've invited us to be there and contribute to restoration of dunes, but also a whole lot of other people," Graham Pearson from Coast Care said.
"We've got the board riders, we've had Lynne Douglas who knows the history of Castlecliff backwards and inside out and Matipo Gardens, Progress Castlecliff and so on. Everybody's there at the beginning so that's really nice to be part of it."
Greg Bennett has been president of NZ Coast Care for over a decade. He says replanting will reverse some of the damage done when browsing animals were introduced to New Zealand and beaches were the first roads.
"The browsing animals ate all the vegetation, sand started to move and then people said we need to do something," said Bennett. "They imported marram grass from the northern hemisphere and that was the restoration programme for a long time."
Experience shows that exotic plants do bind the dunes but shape them differently causing dunes to build, then collapse. But Coast Care's experience working with council staff, elected members, coastal engineers and communities is important.
"Beach communities are special entities in New Zealand," Benett said. "They're people that really identify with the beach they look after. They do little cleanups, they do planting programmes, they do all sorts of things. Without all that volunteer effort we wouldn't be where we are today."
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