The Department of Conservation in collaboration with the Bream Head Conservation Trust and the Northland Regional Council have recently begun a foredune restoration trial at Smugglers Bay, Whangarei Heads.
Smugglers Bay is one of Whangarei’s most beautiful beaches. Set within the Bream Head Scenic Reserve, its isolation, spectacular coastal forest environs, mature pohutukawa dotted along the bay and family-friendly swimming beach make it a very attractive place to visit at any time of the year.
From an ecological perspective however, this coastal ecosystem needs a helping hand. In 2010, coastal restoration experts Dr David Bergin and Michael Bergin produced a report on the restoration of vegetation at Smugglers Bay with the financial support from the Northland Regional Council. This report has provided the technical advice to direct ecological restoration at the Bay.
The Bergins highlighted that the foredunes at Smugglers are modified and have poor natural form and function. They emphasised that restoration efforts must start first and foremost with the foredunes before work is targeted elsewhere as the whole beach is reliant on foredunes working as they should.
Years of rabbit browse nibbling away at the sandbinding plants spinifex and pingao, trampling by beachgoers, weeds, and trampling and grazing by cattle in years past have all contributed to foredune decline. Instead of sand being trapped by healthy and vigorous spinifex and pingao, blowouts have occurred and sand has continued to travel inland.
To kick off, a trial has been implemented in a prominent area of the beach where foredunes are currently absent. Recently large driftwood logs were hauled up to help trap sand and then in June/July spinifex will be planted amongst the piled sand and logs. The spinifex will develop and grow allowing sand to accumulate. As long as rabbit numbers are kept low and the area is not trampled, a continuous frontal dune will be formed.
Sign at Smugglers Bay
The trial area has been taped off and when you visit, we ask that you stay outside of this area to give the trial a chance.
Once the foredunes are restored, we hope to direct efforts to the backdunes and transform areas of kikuyu into a native coastal forest.
Restoration efforts will work in with the recreational use of the bay such as maintaining views of the beach and keeping open access to the essential shade and premium picnic spots under the spectacular pohutukawa.