Two men are ensuring a coastal site of high ecological value will be preserved for future generations along Thornton Beach.

Blake Barnfeild and Tom Armstrong have been clearing pest weeds between the sand dunes to protect an endemic plant – Thornton Kanuka. It is the only place in New Zealand where it has been found.

Thornton Kanuka is nationally unique and specific to 20km of sand dune in the Thornton area. The bonsai style form of the tree means it bears numerous trunks, which bend and twist from the wind creating pockets and caves under its canopy.

The work is being made possible through by an $8.2m investment managed by the Provincial Development Unit, which supports some 20 projects being delivered by Whakatāne District Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

The projects span roading, infrastructure and environmental initiatives, and are creating employment and training opportunities.

A1 Environmental owner Ben Banks said that with the help of the fund he had been able to employ two extra workers, and keep them employed through COVID-19, to help tackle pest weeds in the area.  

Boxthorn – a pest weed with gnarly thorns, as well as lupin and pampas had established themselves and the weeds out competed natives along that stretch of Eastern Bay of Plenty beach, he said.

“This work is going to help protect and enhance the natural character and biodiversity of this beach as well as maximize the resilience of dunes systems to withstand coastal hazards and relevant climate change effects.”

Within the next few years another 500 Thornton Kanuka would be planted back into the area too with the help of Whakatane Intermediate, he said.

Weed controller Tom Armstrong said he had been enjoying the work and learning about the different native species, which with his help, should thrive in the area.