Monday, 19 August 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Prestigious trophy awarded to Cooks Beachcare Group

The Cooks Beachcare Group has been awarded with the Dune Restoration Trust’s trophy for the “Best Coastal Restoration Project of the Year” at the trust’s annual conference that was held in Warkworth at the end of last month. The group is in good company. Several local councils, Dunedin’s Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust, the Waitohu Stream Care Group and the Port Waikato Beach Care Group are among the previous recipients of the trophy.   

The group was formed in 2010 when several Cooks Beach residents became concerned with the state of the dunes along the Cooks Beach foreshore. Noxious plants, garden “escapees” and dumped rubbish had become rampant and were threatening the health of the dunes and their native plants.

From inception, the members of the group focused on the 1km strip of dunes along the western part of the beach.

“Our volunteer numbers range from one to 12,” says Alan Henry, the “informal” chairman of the group. “We meet on Thursday mornings and spend around two hours working on the dunes. We work from February to December, weather depending. Our records show that from 2010 to 2015, we averaged around 600 hours per year and from 2015 to the end of 2018, as our numbers grew, the average hours increased to 1,000 per year.”

The group’s initial target was blue pea (polygala fruticosa), which was of such a size that chainsaws were necessary. Each year the group has worked the length of the 1km strip to the point where there are fewer and fewer blue pea plants each year, with no plants now maturing to the flowering stage.

Of equal concern was agapanthus, which was flourishing.  In 2016, the group obtained a grant from the Department of Conservation’s Community Fund for a three-year spraying programme which has reduced the masses of agapanthus plants to the extent that the group will, after this year’s spraying, be able to maintain or eliminate the remaining plants by hand.

A Department of Conservation Community Day in 2017 saw 18 volunteers attacking ice plant, another widespread pest. From a strip about 30m wide and 60m long, 500kg of plants were removed. It was apparent that all the ice plant could not be practically removed by hand and Thames-Coromandel District Council, recognising that there was a problem, made sufficient funds available for a two-year spraying programme. Upon completion this year, the programme should see the ice plant eliminated or reduced to small patches which can be controlled by hand.

Through hand weeding and spraying, the group have also attacked cotoneaster, ivy, agave, blackberry and gazinias, which were all present in significant amounts.

“A positive aspect of our work has been successive annual planting programmes with the plants - mainly spinifex, pingao, club rush and muehlenbeckia - having been supplied by Waikato Regional Council and TCDC,” says Alan. “Community planting days have been held and the public, school groups, students from an English Language School in Whitianga and the Whitianga Sea Scouts Keas have joined our group in planting in more than 4,000 plants in each of the last three years.”

The group has also developed and presented a beach care and plant identification programme for Whenuakite School. In the nesting season, members of the group are actively protecting dotterels and oyster catchers and their nests at Cooks Beach.

“We have recently found out that Cooks Beach is one of the largest and last locations on the Coromandel Peninsula for sand daphne (pimelia villosa) with natural patches now being supplemented by new plants,” says Alan. “We are very proud guardians of this diminishing native plant. 

“We are very proud of the trophy that has been awarded to us and specifically need to acknowledge our coordinator, Adele Smaill, for always making sure we move ahead in a positive direction.

“We are planning to expand the area we are focusing on and people will soon find us working among the dunes in front of the Banks Street Reserve in the centre of Cooks Beach.

Tania Patrick, the TCDC coastal management coordinator in Mercury Bay, was present when the trophy was awarded to the group. “The trophy is well-deserved,” she says. “The Cooks Beachcare Group are very motivated and very effective in what they do. The trophy is a prestigious award and is testament to their dedication.”

For more on the work of the Cooksbeach Care Group, see www.cooksbeachcare.org.nz

Pictured: The members of the Cooks Beachcare Group who participated in the group’s dune care work on Thursday last week. Back, from the left - Tom Riddell, Dave Campbell and Alan Henry. Middle, from the left - Ian Boyack,  Garry Oppert, Anne Lewis, Glenys Barker, Jeanette Spooner and Ari, the dog. Front - Adele Smaill (holding the “Best Coastal Restoration Project of the Year” trophy that was awarded to the group at the end of last month and) and Alison Henry.

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