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Home arrow Articles by Topic arrow Dune restoration arrow Wilding Pines on Ngunguru Sandspit - Now is the time to act!
Wilding Pines on Ngunguru Sandspit - Now is the time to act! PDF Print
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Articles - Dune restoration
Written by Darlene Buckley, Focus Magazine   
Thursday, 11 December 2014

Two views of Ngunguru Sandspit, looking out to Goat Island from the heights.

The upper photo was taken in 2014, the lower photo in 2007, of the Ngunguru Sandspit from the ridge-top above the village. They clearly show how wilding pines have filled in on the sandspit. Wildings are the natural regeneration (seedlings) of introduced trees. In this case, radiata pines from the nearby forestry blocks within the Ngunguru River Catchment. The Ngunguru River Catchment was originally coastal forest. Local Maori peoples lived on the coast and in the forests, utilizing all available resources. As early as 1837, Europeans, on the vessel Buffalo, anchored in the (natural) Tutukaka harbor, and began to fell kauri timber from the Ngunguru Catchment. Jumping ahead to the 20th century: almost all the coastal forest was long-gone, replaced by green paddocks for grazing sheep or cattle. In the 1970’s - 80’s many of these paddocks were converted to commercial forestry and planted in pinus radiata. It takes 10 years for radiate pines to reach ‘coning’ age and start producing seed to introduce wildings on the sandspit. The sandspit, with its open dunes, small amount of vegetation and relatively little disturbance was an ideal site, from the point of view of the pine seeds! By the 1990s, a few pine wildings were present. Once these outliers were established, it was just a matter of time (another 10 years or so) before the in-filling of pines really became apparent.

Why are wilding pines a threat to the Ngunguru Sandspit?

  • Disrupt the natural, treeless, dune landscape, changing the character of our coast
  • Disrupt and obscure wide-open vistas out to sea, up and down the coastline, and to the offshore islands
  • Disturb or damage archaeological sites
  • Dominate and degrade the natural vegetation found on dunes; change the soil chemistry
  • When the vegetation is altered, the existence of animals that live on and among the plants is also threatened
  • Dune vegetation and fauna are adapted to strong sunlight; large trees create a shade environment that is unnatural on dunelands
  • Wildings use up to 2400 litres of water per day; they reduce the amount of water in the ground; impacting the native vegetation, animals, and dune environments
  • Wildings change the patterns of wind-blown sand as it moves across the dunes; they are not an effective plant for binding sand and keeping it in the dune system

What can we do about the wilding pines on the sandspit?

  • Remove the big-tree wildings AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. This is a job for professionals --- we don’t want anyone getting hurt in the process!
  • Remove seedlings before they begin producing seed.
  • Do as little damage to the dunes as possible during removal operations
  • Replant with appropriate native dune vegetation
  • Monitor the spit to remove pine seedlings as they appear


  1. Baker, J., 2014, The Environmental Effects of Plantation Forestry - The Ngunguru Catchment, Northland, New Zealand. Environment and Conservation Organisations of New Zealand.
  2. Froude, V.A. 2011. Wilding conifers in New Zealand: Status report. Report prepared for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Pacific Eco-Logic, Bay of Islands. 206p.
  3. Ledgard and Langer, 1999, Wilding Prevention Booklet, Guideline #1. Forest Research, MfE.
  4. Northland Regional Council, CoastCare programme

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