Bream Bay Trust; Caring for our Coastline October 2019

Conservation trust members, Luana Pirihi, Robbie Jones and Marilyn Cox

"This is how we help save our world – local people working on local projects" 

Since 2006 the Bream Bay Coastal Care Trust has been helping to care for the 700 hectares of coastal land held by the Department of Conservation in Bream Bay. The Trust is looking for more people to join in this important work.

A founding member of the Trust, Marilyn Cox is taking a lead in restoring native coastal vegetation at Uretiti. Dunes protect the natural character of beaches and protect them from coastal erosion. But dunes are fragile and easily destroyed, relying on the plants that grow on them to trap sand. When dune plants are destroyed, dunes are lost. “Our beaches are our greatest resource” says Marilyn. “If they’re not looked after, if people don’t value them, we’ll lose them.” Planting is well established at the entrance to the campground but there is much more to do, with restoration of native dune plantings along the Tahuna walkway a high priority.

The restoration of the Ruakaka Dunes Lake shows what is possible with dedicated effort; native forest is flourishing where there was once nothing but gorse. Luana Pirihi, from local hapu Patuharakeke, has taken the lead on this project. “This is the only dune lake between Auckland and the Far North. It’s important that we keep this remnant of our coastal ecology going, “says Luana. There is ongoing work to do; there are still threats to water quality and to water levels, and the invasive weed climbing asparagus is present on the lake side. “Volunteering and conservation can’t just be for older people. We have to pass the message on to younger people,” says Luana.

Robbie Jones joined the Trust in 2009. She is passionate about protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of the Bream Bay area. “It is so important to look after the natural environment. There are so many threats to the survival of our seabirds.” One of the biggest threats is human disturbance. “Ruakaka estuary is a significant area for the godwits for roosting and feeding in the summer. It’s also a significant nesting area for the New Zealand dotterel and oyster catchers. But they really struggle because we get all the visitors at the same time.” The Trust provides education, fencing and signage to prevent people walking and driving through bird nesting areas, but judging by the number of fledged chicks “we’re only holding the line” says Robbie. “I wouldn’t call it progress.”

The Trust works closely with the Northern Regional Council CoastCare Coordinator, and the Department of Conservation. These links help the Trust to access funding, training and advice; ensures that health and safety and conservation standards are consistent with best practice; and connects Bream Bay Coastal Care to the network of groups around Northland committed to the same goals.

This is how we help save our world – local people working on local projects, sharing our connection to this special place. Everyone can help – keep to designated paths on the dunes, avoid the shorebird nesting areas, join a planting day, join the Trust. “Conservation is an enduring thread through my life,” says Robbie Jones. “I try to do something every day, even if it is just picking up plastic when I’m walking the dog.” Marilyn envisages a time when conservation is an enduring thread through our community. “Ideally we would have groups all along the coastline looking after their little patch”.

Help out, get in touch with Volunteering Northland.

Story by Helen Frances, volunteer reporter for Volunteering Northland