Pingao & Toheroa Trophy for 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 celebratory 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.
Information provided by Ross Duder, who nominated Pat and who spoke about her work at the conference dinner.
Posted: 26 April 2019 in the News category