By Trevor Ammundsen
The weather events in our summer showed that nature is the real power with which we learn to live. We can sometimes gain an illusion that we have it under control, but it is apparent that we never really do. Nowhere was that more apparent than on the Taputapuatea Spit.
The spit was originally a sandspit, nothing but sand, no plants. It was a significant area for local Iwi and a buffer between the sea and the hinterland. The TCDC let it remain as a sandspit for many years until approached by peoples who wished to use it for their own purposes. The first approach was from a person who wished to plant Pohutakawa trees to see how they grew in sand. The TCDC gave permission for a small grove (about eight trees permitted from memory) and so this ‘experiment’ began. The grove at the north end of the spit is the planned result of this. The unplanned result was a whole lot of wilding Pohutakawa trees spreading throughout the spit in contravention of the agreement made.
The second approach was from Forest and Bird who wished to commence a dune planting project. An agreement was reached for this project involving not only TCDC and Forest and Bird but also Ngati Hei and local residents. Under this agreement, dune grasses could be grown but no trees, Unfortunately the trees of various types continued to spread in an uncontrolled fashion.
Sand dunes are as much a part of nature as trees or grasses. They can be quite grand; just think of the sand dunes at the head of the Hokianga Harbour, and they shelter the animal and bird life that thrives in the conditions they offer. A local example is the Dotterel. It was pleasing therefore to see the ocean enforce its authority over the Taputapuatea Spit during the recent cyclone. Trees were removed with disdain, sand wrenched from one area was hurled over offending grasses. The ocean was turning the spit back to its natural state.
And the natural state is looking quite good. A couple of photos have been sent in with this editorial which have hopefully made it to print. One shows the wild beauty being restored with sand obliterating the Forest and Bird gardening project. The other shows a family wandering back from the beach over the sand spit, now a quite practical walkway for people of all ages.
What is the future of the Taputapuatea Spit? For the past couple of years, it has been in the hands of Ngati Hei to provide some guidance and direction. A recent letter from Patricia MacDonald, a 93-year-old Kaumatua of Ngati Hei, illustrated that Iwi have strong feelings about this area. She points out that the spit is a reserve which should be protected and preserved. She carries on to state that the Yacht Club should not have been relocated onto this reserve.
I find it hard not to sympathise with Patricia’s views. After all, it must be difficult to watch a treasured piece of land be gradually changed to some other people’s view of what that land should be. The Yacht Club has to go somewhere but that could be organised with the TCDC. Perhaps at Brophy’s Beach with a bar and café built in to provide a much-needed boost to that end of the beach.
What can be achieved immediately is for the TCDC to work with nature to preserve the sandspit, removing offending trees and other plantings that do not enhance this reserve. As a final touch it would be glorious to see the Iwi acknowledged by the erection of a suitable sculpture similar to those that have been erected by the Waikato Expressway. It will only take a bit of work and commitment and the Taputapatea Spit can revert to being a unique piece of community land that acknowledges local Iwi and that we all can be proud of and use.