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Published: 2011-06-13 00:00:00

For every dollar regional ratepayers put into a programme restoring Waikato’s eroded and vulnerable dunes they get $5 back, the environment committee has heard.

Beachcare is an effective community-based dune restoration programme initiated by Waikato Regional Council in 1994 at Whiritoa and Port Waikato.

The programme, which aligns with the council’s flagship goals and currently receives $170,000 annual funding, now has 20 groups operating throughout the Waikato’s coastal areas – 12 on the Coromandel Peninsula and 8 on the region’s west coast.

Environment committee chairperson Jane Hennebry said an up-to-date cost-benefit analysis of the beachcare programme would be undertaken to help inform council during next year’s Long Term Plan.

“With more than 400 beachcare members, it is clear there is significant work being done by council staff to enthuse the community to get involved in work to protect our coasts.”

Cr Hennebry said the council would be looking closely at funding for the programme during the LTP.

Regional council beachcare coordinator Sam Stephens told the committee last Friday that an average of 1000-plus volunteer hours was spent each year to protect the region’s coasts.

“A cost-benefit analysis carried out three years ago shows that for every dollar council puts in, this programme delivers $5 of regional benefits,” Mr Stephens said.

During 31 community working bees in 2009/10, volunteers planted more than 42,000 native plants in dunes covering 28,000 square metres, he said.

Coastal dunes have become eroded through a combination of development and removal of dune plants. Mr Stephens added that one of the current threats to dunes, aside from storms, is four wheel drive vehicles and motorbikes.

Beachcare groups operate in partnership with the regional council community members, iwi and district councils.

Planting dunes is a cost-effective alternative to engineering solutions such as seawalls, which can impact negatively on natural beach processes.

The work being undertaken in the region is in line with the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement released last November which strongly favours dune restoration and enhancement of natural buffers over built structures, such as sea walls, to manage erosion.

Visit http://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/Community/Your-community/Care-groups/Beachcare/ for more information about the Beachcare programme.