Dotterel Point lies to the east of Okurei (Town) Point at the eastern end of Pukehina, and together with Maketu 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.
The sandspit is a fragile ecosystem, exposed to both currents and storm surge from the ocean, as well as the tidal movement of the estuary. The estuary is also prone to toxic algal blooms.
Dotterel Point Reserve is home to a wide range of species, and is a nesting habitat for many native shorebirds such as dotterels and oystercatchers.
In 2011, before the MV Rena disaster, Dotterel Point had only four pairs of dotterels, and very little breeding success. In 2012, after the disaster, one of our members, Ros Hunt, who had a bach in Pukehina, asked if we could help put up a fence around the dotterel nesting area at the end of the spit. 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 well as proving more protection for the nesting birds. As a result in 2013, with support from Coast Care and a grant from the BOPRC Environmental Enhancement Fund, we decided to put up a more permanent fence.
Setting up the fence was quite a learning curve for all of us. We had the help of a PD gang who were very handy with a bit of machinery; in this case a 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. In 2015 we also made a second fence at the foot of the dune.
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 the size of the dotterel population has doubled, with eight, possibly nine pairs breeding there, along with at least a dozen pairs of variable oystercatchers which is a great reward for everyones hard work!
In 2014 we started a Biodiversity Management Plan working with BOPRC, WBOPDC and DOC.
We carry out extensive weed control, and 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 rabbits. 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.
While helping and monitoring the dotterels and oystercatchers is a big part of the plan, we are spend the majority of our time working on the vegetation to get rid of invasive weeds, in particular ice plant, dimorphotheca, kikuyu and sea couch. We are also gradually removing the Norfolk pine trees growing in the reserve to return the area to a natural, native environment.