Barry Turk is a man who believes in addressing issues and over the past five years he has led volunteers to successfully restore eroded dunes at Onemana, on the Waikato’s east coast.
His commitment to dune restoration has been recognised in a ceremony in Whangamata today, with Mr Turk named Waikato’s ‘Coastal Champion’ by the New Zealand Coastal Society (NZCS).
In its inaugural year, the Coastal Champions programme recognises individuals who have shown a commitment to the sustainable management of New Zealand’s coastal environment and have made a difference within their community.
Since Mr Turk established the Onemana Beachcare group, with the support of volunteers and the Waikato Regional Council, more than 30,000 plants have been planted.
“Record-breaking work at Onemana has so far involved around 1200-1500 hours of community volunteer labour, and through this work and Barry’s commitment to achieving restoration, the area has been transformed,” said Waikato Regional Council’s Beachcare coordinator, Sam Stephens.
“Over the years, hundreds of volunteers have been involved with Onemana Beachcare, not only helping with planting, but also managing pests, improving drainage and creating pedestrian access ways to limit damage to dune plants.
“With the return of native vegetation and natural dune function restored, it is expected the area will now be relatively self-sustaining, although there will be some planting days to fill gaps when needed, as well as maintenance of access ways and signage,” Mr Stephens said.
Total spinifex cover has been restored on the frontal dune, with a good subcomponent of the culturally significant pingao also restored despite the best attempts of local rabbits, which Mr Turk has regularly arranged to have eradicated.
Before the work was undertaken, this zone had only two or three isolated bushes of the native knobby club-rush. The zone is now backed by a wide band of these bushes and at the southern end a huge area of native pohuehue has replaced grass and weeds. These areas will thicken up over the years ahead and become increasingly spectacular.
Pohuehue and the knobby club-rush provide critically important habitat for various native fauna, including the native copper butterfly and skinks. It is expected these native species will increasingly put in an appearance as the vegetation thickens up. Meanwhile, weeds are being kept in check while the native vegetation establishes.
Beachcare groups are supported by the Waikato Regional Council, iwi and district councils. Visit www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/beachcare to find out more.
Mr Turk was nominated by NZCS member and regional council Beachcare contractor Jim Dahm. This year’s national ‘Coastal Champion’ is Bill Southward of Canterbury for his work on the river and coastal systems of the Rakaia River.