Karekare – Whatipu Dunes: A Revelation

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The beginnings of a Pīngao Dune (Ficinia Spiralis)

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Here's where the dunes begin

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From small beginnings large sand dunes grow

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Dunescape: New since 2014

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The green and the gold

We had run a trip to the area between Karekare and the Pararaha a couple of years ago, but had heard that the changes there were worth taking a look at.  So we organised a repeat trip, and were not disappointed.  Where there had been a little whisps of  Spinifex dunes across the beach, there is now a substantial multi dune landscape.  There are impressive Pingao dunes too, their rich golden colour contrasting with the light green of the Spinifex.  And there are single plants already showing how they will build into dunes as the wind-blown sand accumulates.

At the end of the Pohutukawa Glade Track, a hollow has developed, and the beginning of a dune wetland is forming.  What used to be a flat stretch of sand reaching from the cliffs to the sea is now a vastly increased stretch ranging from dunes to wetlands, tidal flats and lagoons, with easy access on foot to Paratahi  Island at low tide. My 1986 topo map needs to be updated.  It shows Paratahi way out to sea.

Beyond Tunnel Point the impressive mature wetlands are showing unusual dryness after our long hot  summer, in some cases revealing a crackled mud surface.  It will be interesting to see if winter rain brings back the amount of water that was there in recent seasons or if this is the beginning of yet another unexpected development with climate change and the current  movement of vast quantities of sand from Taranaki northwards.

A commentary from plant expert Jeff McCauley added to the rich experience that this trip offered, as he explained the evolution of the landscape and the changes, some obvious and some very subtle, that were becoming apparent.  All-in-all, a fascinating day in a fascinating landscape.

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