The Otama Sand Dune Recreation Reserve is a naturally regenerating sand dune system, environmentally significant in NZ.
The reserve covers approximately 4.8 hectares, extending along most of the 2.5 km length of Otama Beach, and is 250-350 metres wide, forming a protective ridge of sand reserve for the beach.
Maintaining an adequate width of well-vegetated dunes provides a natural buffer that absorbs the impact of coastal erosion during storms and allows the beach and dunes to repair themselves naturally.
For further information on the importance of dune systems in New Zealand see 'Fragile Guide to Waikato Dunes'.
The frontal dunes of this reserve are home to many native sand binding plants such as Spinifex and Pingao. Native ground covers such as Muehlenbeckia (Pohuehue), Sand Caprosma (Coprosma Acerosa), the less commonly found Sand Daphne (Pimelea villosa), as well as native dune rush Knobby Club Rush (Ficinia nodosa), Flax (Phormium Tenax) (Phormium cookianum) and Toetoe (Austroderia) are found on dunes graduating to the landward side.
A wide variety of native shrubs and trees are found in rear dune areas such as Manuka,(Leptospermum Scoparium), Kanuka, (Kunzea Robusta), Taupata (Coprosma Repens), Coastal Five-Finger (Pseudopanax Lessonii), Karo (Pittosporum Crassifolium), Kawakawa (Macropiper Excelsum), Ngaio (Myoporum Laetum), Ake Ake (Dodonea Viscosa) and Pohutukawa (Metrosideras Excelsus), which were probably in the original dune vegetation sequence.
The Otama Dune reserve contains 12 midden sites and connects to the urupā in the wetland. Respecting all of this area and its historical and spiritual significance to the Ngati Hei is a key value to the Otama Reserves Group.
In its more recent history local residents have protected the dunes from threats such as sand mining and coastal development, with DOC purchasing back a privately owned block of land in the sand dunes.
Controlling Weeds and Pests
The Otama Reserve Group is working with DOC, Waikato Regional Council (WRC) and the Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC) to keep these dunes free of plant and animal pests, so that they can have the best opportunity to naturally regenerate and provide a safer environment for native birds such as the NZ Dotterel, Oyster Catcher and Blue Penguin that nest in the foredune areas.
Protecting the dunes from introduced exotic plant species which compete with our native sand binders and other native dune species is a key objective in looking after the sand dune reserve. The ORG participates in DOC weeding days when volunteers form a grid across the dunes and target the removal of weed species such as Lupin and Ice Plant (Carpobrotus Edulis).
Our group also targets specific weed species in the dunes such as Pampas (Cordateria Selloana), Gorse (Ulex Eurpoaeus), Blackberry (Rubus Fructicosus) and Woolly Nightshade (Solanum Mauritianum) as part of our weed control programme with Remnant Restoration across all the reserves.
We maintain an extensive trapping line across the dunes to target animal pests such as cats, ferrets, hedgehogs, rats, stoats and possums. Rabbits and wild pigs are also prevalent in the dunes and also pose a threat to dune regeneration.
These combined activities help protect the sand dune system and assist in the natural regeneration of the native vegetation and ongoing maintenance of the natural sand barrier and builds dune resilience.
TCDC and Coastcare - Waikato are undertaking a coastal restoration project on the TCDC Road Reserve and coastal area at the western end of Otama Beach, which borders the Otama Sand Dune Reserve. This project is managed by the TCDC and Coastcare Waikato Coastal Restoration Coordinator, and is part of a shoreline management pan for the Thames Coromandel coastline to protect against coastal erosion.
A community Coastcare Group has also been formed to assist with restorative planting of foredune and backdune plant species which will enhance this public area. The Otama Reserves Group supports this project by assisting with the planting activities.
The Black Jack Scenic Reserve is located at the north-western corner of Otama Beach near Motuhua Point.
This 90 hectare area is included in the settlement of local iwi Ngati Hei and contains a significant headland pa site.
Our initial plans to preserve this area include setting up a trap line and undertaking weed control of the Pampas.