Chris and Jayne Ward have been the backbone of Western Bay of Plenty’s dune ecosystem for more than 11 years. Now, they’re preparing to hang up their spades and spend more time with their family.
The two have been working with Coast Care in the Western Bay since 2011, but have been involved with dune restoration since the 90s. They’re now taking on a smaller role for one more season before retiring completely.
In their many years restoring our dunes, the Wards have seen more people become in tune with the dune environment and have particularly enjoyed the education aspect of the job.
“When we first started in dune restoration in the 90s it was hard, as we would do some planting and then it would get wrecked,” said Mr Ward.
“Since Coast Care got the community involved through education and volunteer planting days, we have definitely seen a shift in the community’s thinking, they are more in tune with our dune environment.
“The best part of the job has definitely been the education aspect. Students of all ages have come out to the dunes to weed, plant and learn about the dunes system. Those school children will be the ones enjoying our natural environment in the future so it’s been great to have them so involved.
“We have also enjoyed working with all the awesome volunteers who do a wonderful job of restoring the dunes. Without their hard work Coast Care would not be able to achieve the results it has.”
While community interest and awareness of our dune environment has grown, so too have its threats.
Mr Ward said the ever-increasing number of beachside subdivisions and population growth are putting pressure on our dune systems.
“Our dunes are sensitive to trampling and people don’t seem to want to walk 50 metres down the road to their nearest beach entrance.
“Instead, they create their own paths over the dunes and, with more and more people living at the beach, that’s clearly causing erosion issues.
“With climate change, we are seeing more severe weather events and, as dunes are coastal communities’ first line of defence, people need to respect them.”
Tauranga City Council Natural Environment Advisor Suzy O’Neill said Mr and Mrs Ward have been reliable, dedicated and humble in their work for Coast Care and have worked weekends and evenings rain or shine caring for our dunes.
Coast Care Regional Coordinator Russell Knutson said the Wards were incredibly committed to their role and have an unmatched passion for coastal restoration.
“We will certainly miss having their expertise around but on behalf of all Coast Care partner organisations we want to sincerely thank them for all they have done,” he said.
The Wards will be focusing on the Kaituna area for one more planting season and Ashley Robertson will take over their role in Tauranga, Pāpāmoa and Waihī Beach.
Coast Care Bay of Plenty is a coastal restoration programme run in close partnership with local communities, care groups and schools alongside Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Tauranga City Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Whakatane District Council, Opotiki District Council and the Department of Conservation, that aims to restore and protect the sand dunes along our Bay of Plenty beaches.
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Coast Care contractor Chris Ward educating a group on the importance of our dunes.