A call to action to protect Hawke's Bay's only marine reserve has been answered by a determined coastal community.
On Easter Sunday about 80 people of all ages shared ideas on how to best protect and promote the Te Angiangi Marine Reserve, on the Central Hawke's Bay coast, in an open day organised by the Aramoana Environmental and Education Charitable Trust (AEECT).
Gathered in the Aramoana Woolshed, locals, landowners and elected officials from the Hawke's Bay Regional and Central Hawke's Bay District councils discussed how the issues facing the area could be addressed.
The public meeting comes after the cliffs of Te Angiangi Marine Reserve were left bare following a bad storm in April 2011, when 550mm rainfall and a 4.6 earthquake caused them to collapse.
The trust was formed around this time to promote environmental education with an emphasis on the Te Angiangi Marine Reserve and Ouepoto Reserve.
On Sunday meeting facilitator and Hawke's Bay Regional Council Resource Management Group Manager Iain Maxwell said he was very impressed with how engaged the community was in protecting its natural environment.
"It's not just about identifying the problems, but also coming up with solutions to these pervasive, and intergenerational issues," Mr Maxwell said. "It's only going to work if the community puts forward ideas."
Those gathered on Sunday certainly listened, suggesting ideas on everything from predator management, to beach access, to preventing speeding in the quiet coastal area.
Locals were reminded they were the "caretakers of this wonderful place" by Shoal Bay representative Tony Mossman, while fifth generation local farmer Rob Eagles said "most farmers want to leave their land better than it was when they arrived. That's a good goal for us on the coast to try and achieve as well."
Educating the next generation was a key part of the discussion, with Omakere School teacher Samantha Bell explaining how their students helped with planting, and the learning opportunities it provided them.
"The children are developing the understanding, to be the next generation caregivers of the coast," she said. It was suggested other schools be encouraged to follow, or adapt the local school's model.
Another big issue facing the area was poaching, as "Te Angiangi reserve is the most accessible, but most poached reserve in the country", AEECT general manager and Department of Conservation marine ranger Rod Hansen said.
They had a zero tolerance to poaching, he said, but some people were still ignoring the many no-poaching signs throughout the area.
The group also suggested ideas for how the nearby Ouepoto Reserve could be enhanced - from building up the sand dunes which had been worn away by human impact, to continuing conservation measures which had helped improve bird life populations.
Trust chair Richard Lee said he was very pleased with how the meeting had gone – with more than 20 ideas to be consulted on with the community.
He was confident the drive to protect the area would only grow, adding it was encouraging to see how many children had been brought along to the meeting.
"It's a generational thing, they're the ones who are going to have to carry this work on," he said.
"Yesterday and today are important, but what we do tomorrow is the really important thing."