Dotterel Point lies to the east of Okurei Point, and together with Maketū Spit, is the only example of sandspits running in opposite directions either side of a point in New Zealand, and one of only two in Australasia. In 2011, at the time of the MV Rena disaster, it had four pairs of dotterel, but very little breeding success. It now has eight or nine pairs who raised 8 young in 2015/16.
In 2012, after the Rena disaster, one of our members, Ros Hunt, who had a bach in Pukehina, asked if we could help putting up a fence around the dotterel nesting area at Dotterel point, Pukehina. We agreed and lent Ros some posts and tape as well as a few DOC signs. The first fence was pretty basic, but it did cut down some of the human and quad bike activity on the point, and allowed a little bit of vegetation to start growing. As a result in 2013, we decided to fund a proper fence using 125 mm posts and a 20mm polypropylene rope. BOP Regional Council came to the party with a grant from their Environmental Enhancement Fund, and Coast Care also gave us a hand.
Setting up the fence was quite a learning curve for all of us. We used a PD gang who always work better with a bit of machinery, in this case the post hole borer, which is essential when you are setting up over 100 posts! The results looked good and the birds agreed, as on the whole they have been very well behaved, almost always nesting inside the fence. We have had to adjust the fence twice; in 2014 due to erosion on the inside, and then in 2015 after Cyclone Pam, which washed out nearly half the posts. Fortunately realinging the fence is not hard, the only slightly tricky bit is working out where to have the slices that join the rope together. In 2015 we made a second fence at the foot of the dune. It looks better than a tape fence and is more robust.
The fence has allowed an impressive build up of sand inside, almost all of it without additional planting. This just goes to show the value of our two sand binding plants, spinifex and pingao, and also the effect of stopping vehicles crossing the area. On top of that we have had a doubling in the size of the dotterel population, with eight, possibly nine pairs breeding there, along with at least a dozen pairs of variable oystercatchers.
In 2014 we started a Biodiversity Management Plan working with BOPRC, WBOPDC and DOC. While helping and monitoring the dotterels and oystercatchers is a big part of the plan, we are also working on the vegetation to get rid of invasive weeds, in particular ice plant, dimorphotheca as well as two grasses, kikuyu and sea couch. We also run an animal pest control programme, but there are surprisingly few of them there to remove. The one that is a bit of a problem is rabbit. They tend to reappear about 8 months after we remove them, so it is likely to be an ongoing problem. We also monitor reptiles and invertebrates, and while this programme is in the early stages, we do know that we have a good population of shore skink there.