The major storms that hit the Abel Tasman National Park back in 2018 left a major repair bill, but three years later there is a silver lining at Awaroa beach.
Ex-cyclones Fehi and Gita struck in February 2018, damaging bridges, foreshore planting projects, campsites and even the coastal track. But while it changed dunes at some beaches for the worse, three years later the dunes at Awaroa beach, also known as the Peoples beach, are looking better than they have in many years.
Restoration supervisor Helen Lindsay says since the storms in 2018 there have been major changes in the dunes and they now have a more natural shape. “What happened is the gorse has died back because of salt inundation, which has allowed the sand to shift landwards, levelling out the steep scarp that used to be there because of the woody vegetation. The woody vegetation is now further back from the high tide mark giving space for other plants to establish,” she says.
Helen says Awaroa beach is a good example of the dynamic nature of dune systems. “While areas of foreshore can be stable for long periods of time, they are dynamic ecosystems and will always be subject to damage in extreme weather events as we saw in 2018. What’s interesting about Awaroa is how quickly the dunes returned to their natural forms after gorse and other invasive weeds were removed by the storms.”
Helen says weedy vegetation such as African ice plant and marram grass will eventually invade this space and cause a steeper scarp to re-develop. As part of Project Janszoon’s Firesmart projects, gorse and other invasive weeds are being controlled at other beaches in the park, giving native vegetation the opportunity to naturally develop with a small amount of enhancement planting. “Removing gorse reduces fire risk, improves the look of the dunes, gives the opportunity to introduce threatened dune plants, and improves native wildlife habitat,” she says.