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Pingao & Toheroa Award

Pingao & Toheroa Trophy Award

This is not an annual award, but one to celebrate the exceptional contributions of an individual to coastal restoration only when someone of very high calibre comes to our attention.

If you know of someone who has made more than a significant contribution towards restoring our coastal environments, please nominate them for this award. Please write to us, preferably with photo, why you think they should get this award by emailing us on click here or by sending your nomination to us at: PO Box 11302, Wellington 6142.

2019: Pat La Roche

Pat La Roche was awarded this prestigious trophy to recognise her 30+ years of dedication and persistence in coastal restoration in Auckland’s West Coast environment with particular emphasis on her work in the controversial Piha coastal area. Unfortunately Pat couldn’t be at the conference to receive the trophy, but a special presentation ceremony was held on 4 May in her home town.

  • Pat has worked tirelessly to counter the effects of the natural and human induced degradation of the West Coast and, in particular, the Piha dune system over many years.
  • As a keen amateur environmentalist, Pat put a great deal of time and effort into studying the form and function of dune systems in the high energy west coast environment. With this knowledge and in consultation with other coastal experts, Pat led the planning of the plant restoration, beach accessways, and stream alignments following storm incidents.
  • This involved lengthy and difficult negotiations with local authorities and the opposition of some local groups that had little appreciation of coastal science processes and the means of managing them.
  • As a result of her enthusiasm, the Piha CoastCare Trust was formed to plan a co-ordinated approach to much needed restoration along the whole beach front. To ensure the success of the plans, Pat has successfully obtained local board funding for many thousands of dune plant seedlings, materials and contract services.
  • In addition Pat has, every year, personally carried out eco-sourced pingao and spinifex seed collection, arranged plant propagation and re-planting.
  • She has annually organised many volunteer working bees to carry out replanting and has received enthusiastic support from many locals in restoring the various degraded dune systems, stream banks and wetlands.
  • Pat was involved in obtaining and supervising contracts from the local authority to provide summer rangers at Piha to protect the environment from the depredations of dune plant trampling by ever-increasing numbers of tourists and the problems of dogs pursuing and damaging local bird life, including little blue penguins.
  • In her efforts to inform and educate visitors and local people, Pat has been instrumental in helping design and have installed suitable beach care signage to protect the environment.
  • Away from dunes, Pat has been deeply involved in the restoration of the environment around the Piha Stream and has co-ordinated local people and groups to participate in weed control and riparian planting. Her ability to work closely with Auckland Council Rangers to obtain the best results is one of the marks of her ability to involve groups and individuals.
  • To keep abreast of the latest scientific information on all coastal restoration issues, Pat has regularly attended and reported to many Coastal Restoration Trust Conferences and was a major participant in the planning and executing of the Coastal Restoration Trust Annual Conference in Piha in 2012. She has been responsible for passing on the latest information to local residents and authorities to encourage them to adopt best practices in coastal work.
  • She has also led Piha CoastCare in vetting local authority decisions in relation to Piha’s and the West Coast’s environment and has made numerous written submissions to help the authorities come to better decisions, including the development of the Auckland Plan when the local councils were amalgamated.
  • An important feature of her work is the fact that she has tirelessly persisted in advancing best environmental practice, often in the face of uninformed opposition and sometimes vitriolic accusations that have taken their toll physically and emotionally.

In summary, Pat has, over 30+ years, made an exceptional contribution to the coastal environment on Auckland’s West Coast and her energy, enthusiasm and integrity in identifying issues, advocating for best practice at all times and her organisational ability in carrying out projects on the dunes marks her as a person of very high calibre indeed.

2017: David Bergin

At the 2017 conference in Christchurch the Pingao & Toheroa award was presented to David Bergin.

David was first involved in dune restoration in the early 1990s when he met Jim Dahm and offered to set up trials to assess the establishment of Spinifex. In 1996, Dave was present at the very first meeting of interested parties called to find ways to produce Spinifex. This was held at Forest Research in Rotorua and from that meeting of representatives from eleven councils and other interested parties the Coastal Dune Vegetation Network was established.

The first thing the CDVN did was to set up trials to find the best way to produce Spinifex from seed. David was the leader of the group that did this work at Naturally Native in Tauranga. Results were very quickly obtained and within three years commercial quantities of Spinifex were being grown and planted by Coast Care groups.

The CDVN produced a series of bulletins that were mostly written by David. These and the workshops he was involved with throughout the country established the CDVN as the authority on dune restoration.

David is the ordinary man’s scientist. He communicates with all at a level that they understand, always willing to share his knowledge and recognise others suggestions as valid. At the academic level, he has published a number of peer reviewed articles in scientific journals.

The trust has carried out many successful research projects and David has been at the forefront of them all. He has instigated most of our projects, set up the trials and then spread the information gained to all who showed an interest.

David has been a trustee of the Coastal Restoration Trust since it first was set up as the Dunes Trust in 2007.

2016: James Te Tuhi

James te Tuhi created for us the Pingao & Toheroa Award a few years ago to be awarded to people who have made an exceptional contribution to dune restoration work. This year the trust decided to award this trophy to James himself because of the enormous part he has played in dune restoration in the region over the years.

Unfortunately James couldn’t come to our conference that year, but an award presentation was held in his home town of Dargaville in May.

We congratulate James on this achievement and thank him for all that he has done for us and the dunes.

2015: Alan Esler

“Alan passed away on 12 September 2016 after a life time of study, field research and teaching of botany, taxonomy and ecology of NZ flora. At his funeral in Mt Albert his sons, relatives and professional colleagues looked back on his passion for plants, ecology and the effect Alan had had on their lives. Alan’s observation powers, his meticulous recording and his detailed sketches of plants were recalled with admiration.

During the 20 years as a DSIR Botanist in Auckland he surveyed many plant communities and amassed his own regional plant collection, which he donated to the herbarium at the Auckland Museum. The culmination of his skills came in 2004 with the publication of “Wild Plants of Auckland”, the story of 322 plant species and their communities that grow wild in Auckland’s increasingly urban environment.

Altogether he put out 150 publications, many of them in the NZ Journal of Botany. Amongst these were some early reports on surveys of sand dune colonies of the Manawatu and West Auckland. These pioneering dune ecology reports earnt him the title “NZ Father of Sand Dune Ecology”. In 2015, in recognition of this work, Alan was the inaugural recipient of the ‘Pingao & Toheroa Award’ at the Dune Restoration Trust conference in Whitianga.This distinctive hand carved trophy depicts the curious relationship between the pingao sand binding plant and the toheroa life cycle. It was carved by Northland’s dune and shellfish researcher and activist James Te Tuhi”.

Written by Ross Duder - Piha CoastCare