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Published: 2011-12-14 00:00:00

A new 1.6 kilometre walking track aimed at protecting dunes at the west coast’s Aotea Beach will receive $5000 from the Waikato Regional Council’s environmental initiatives fund.

The project is one of two to have funding approved recently by the finance and audit committee, which was supported at yesterday’s council meeting.

It is expected the Aotea Beach walkway will help to stop people treading through sensitive dune environments.

The local Aotea Beachcare community group will build and maintain the walkway, which will also improve beach access. Specific beach access ways will be designated along the walkway, which is being developed as part of the volunteer group’s overall dune restoration programme for the beach.

The Morrison family has given permission for the walkway, picnic benches and signage to be built on their land. Volunteers have already carried out extensive replanting of native dune plants.

The walkway will allow beach users to appreciate the natural beauty of the dunes environment and, through formalising specific beach access ways, ensure damage to the dune vegetation will be minimised. Signposts along the track are expected raise awareness about the need to preserve the natural character of the dunes.

Regional council’s Beachcare coordinator Sam Stephens said the local community was very keen to protect the natural character of their local beach.

“This project has been developed by the community on privately owned land so it’s great that their hard work is being supported by a grant from the council,” Mr Stephens said.

The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has also been given a funding boost of $4000 to produce an updated community guide to coastal development best practice management.

The community guide will draw on material published in 2009 and is envisaged to be used by many sectors, including iwi, community groups and local government. The free guide will be available on the EDS website (www.eds.org.nz).

Visit www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/beachcare to find out more about the work carried out by Beachcare groups around the region.