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Published: 2004-07-16 00:00:00

A growing number of Beachcare groups are increasing people’s understanding of the natural processes on beaches, this week’s Environment Waikato Environment Committee heard.

After more than 10 years’ of Environment Waikato formed Beachcare activities throughout the Waikato there is increasing public awareness and support for them, with more than 400 enquiries last year. Increased understanding of beach processes has meant communities are deciding to work with natural processes rather than against them.

At Port Waikato the community has accepted the need to relocate the surf club, and there was less concern throughout the Whangamata community about erosion after a storm, Community Education Facilitator Felicity Fahy said.

“The response of the community and adjacent property owners to the severe erosion of the Otahu area of Whangamata Beach and dunes in the week before Easter 2003 reflected an increased level of community understanding of coastal processes.”

She said that in the past, coastal erosion of this magnitude had generated high levels of community concern, but this time there was widespread recognition of the erosion as a natural occurrence.

In Tairua, severe erosion of the last year was less in most areas than the dune advance achieved during the previous few years, largely due to Beachcare plantings. The effect on adjacent properties was significantly less than would otherwise have occurred, she said.

A dune reshaping and restoration trial was done at Pauanui after many years of discussion and debate with the community. The project was designed in collaboration with Beachcare members and was a positive and significant step forward for Beachcare in the area. The group are extending the reshaped and replanted area this year.

The rare sand fescue plant was now almost common at Whiritoa, and another 500 plants - sourced and grown from the last three remaining plants on the beach – were planted last year. Beachcare groups planted over 30,000 plants last year.

Four new Beachcare groups are being formed in the Region, with 15 groups operating. New groups are at Whaingaroa/Raglan, Matarangi, Rings Beach and Mataora. The groups are running well attended working bees and planting days.

She said Beachcare was an important way of lessening the effects of coastal hazards, while also enhancing biodiversity and the natural character of coastal areas.