The sand dunes at Whiritoa beach have been damaged by vegetation clearance, sand mining and coastal subdivisions. A hazard management strategy is in place and the Whiritoa beachcare group is working to protect and enhance Whiritoa’s sand reserves.
On this page: Whiritoa Beach history, Whiritoa Hazard Management Strategy, Whiritoa Beachcare
Whiritoa beach history
Whiritoa Beach is typical of many beaches along the eastern Coromandel Peninsula. The beach started developing 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. The process of beach building has now finished and the beach has all the sand it is ever going to get.
Early Maori communities removed most of the original coastal forest and dune plants. Then farmers introduced stock to the dune area, disturbing the native sand-binding grasses and causing severe wind erosion. Most of the sand reserves eroded. This reduced the height of the dunes and caused sheets of sand to move more than 200 m inland.
The sand at Whiritoa Beach has been mined for over 50 years. More than 180,000 m3 of sand has been removed. Find out more about coastal sand mining.
Since the 1960s coastal subdivision has covered what remains of the sand dune reserves. Find out more about coastal development.
We now need to protect and enhance Whiritoa’s sand reserves - the present beach and the single dune behind it - for the future.
Whiritoa Hazard Management Strategy
Waikato Regional Council’s study on Whiritoa’s potential erosion hazard shows that there is a high potential erosion risk within 35 m of the base of the sand dunes. This could extend back to 50 m inland, if a predicted sea level rise is taken into account.
To address these issues, Waikato Regional Council and the Hauraki District Council developed a hazard management strategy in consultation with local iwi and the community. The strategy recommended that:
- development be controlled in erosion prone areas
- a dune management programme be put in place to protect and enhance the dunes
- sand mining cease.
Local iwi agreed to voluntarily phase out sand mining. Hauraki District Council have included hazard set–back zones and relevant building and development controls in the Hauraki District Plan.
In 1993, Environment Waikato and Hauraki District Council started New Zealand’s first community based Beachcare group at Whiritoa. Whiritoa Beachcare have:
- planted over 35,000 native coastal plants
- built eight access ways plus fences and signs
- removed pest plants
- repaired very steep and damaged dune areas.
The group has raised public awareness of the need for dune protection and attracts strong community support and involvement. Find out more about Beachcare groups.
The success at Whiritoa Beach is a good example of communities, local iwi, coastal managers and researchers working together to protect our coasts.