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Tribute to Trustee and Treasurer Colin Ryder

Kua hinga te tōtara i te wao nui a Tāne.

A tōtara has fallen in the forest of Tāne. Remembering Colin Ryder, our Treasurer, who passed away unexpectedly after a tragic accident on the 9th of March 2021.

Colin did not come to our conference; he was a very busy man and had family commitments. Somehow though, he also found time to attend to one of those things on his to do list and it ended up costing his life.

Colin was our leader and our guide; the loss to us and Papatūānuku is immense.

Wednesday morning, we were two hours into our Annual Conference at Whanganui when we heard the news. It was like a horse stomped on my chest. I did not know what to say or do. I had to break the news to the conference and then we took five minutes to digest this abrupt, tragic thing. The main purpose of our conference is for coastal managers and communities to share stories and support each other’s restoration efforts so we continued to do that. This is exactly what Colin would be telling us, as he was oft to say: Just get on with it.

Throughout the Conference, many attendees gave their aroha for the loss and during our Conference Dinner I recited: Kua hinga te tōtara i te wao nui a Tāne. A tōtara has fallen in the forest of Tāne and requested everyone plant a tōtara to remember Colin. A few of us raised a few glasses of the craft beer that was another of his passions. It was uncanny but also fortunate that many of us were together and were able to share our grief and celebrate Colin’s life.

In another uncanny coincidence, we were pleased to announce that The Friends of Baring Head were this year’s recipient of our Coastal Restoration Award. Colin already knew the winner had been decided but, true to his nature, took the secret to his grave.

My last phone conversation with Colin was when he was on the Head checking his trap lines and complaining about his knees. He was breathing heavily but I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was happy and energised.

Of all the countless projects and achievements, the purchase of Baring Head was Colin’s proudest moment and an outstanding landscape has been secured and protected from development and free for generations of New Zealanders to enjoy. I was fortunate to visit Baring Head with Colin during our Conference in Petone in 2018 and watched him check those traps. Yet another uncanny coincidence is; as I write this, I am travelling home, sailing through the Wellington Heads on the Interislander Ferry looking out at Colin’s legacy.

Colin became treasurer of our Trust in 2014 It is certain that we wanted Colin to be our Treasurer but we did not choose Colin. In our first conversation I felt like I was the one being interviewed. He was direct and blunt. He said he had done his homework on us and only now I realise how fortunate we were when he did choose us.

Colin was one of these rare individuals who live their life authentically. He was a straight talker and always ready to laugh out loud. Those who know Colin also know they have been touched by someone special.

The Coastal Restoration whānau from around New Zealand extend their aroha to Colin’s family for their tragic loss of a loving husband and father.

Tai timu, tai pari
Tai mata tāhuna
Piri tata, piri tahi
Piri kia ora
Mō āpōpō, mō ake, ake tonu rā

Greg Bennett


An article about Colin that was published in the Dominion Post on 3 April is here.

Coastal Restoration Trust receives funding for videos and workshops

After having to keep this a secret for a few months, we are pleased to announce the news that we have been granted funding from the DOC Community Fund for a 2-year project to produce lots of educational videos on coastal restoration as well as hold some workshops. Read the news here.

Updates about progress on this project will be shared on our Projects page under Videos and Workshops.

We thank DOC for supporting this project.

Coastal Adaptation Webinar

Join the Coastal team of the Resilience National Science Challenge for an update on their research activities at a FREE webinar on 6 August 11-12noon.

The research team will present their recent work on coastal adaptation using the ‘Dynamic Adaptive Pathways Planning’ approach, the application of this approach to new challenges such as managed retreat, and ongoing and future work on enabling proactive coastal adaptation.


  • Assoc Prof Mark Dickson (The University of Auckland): Introduction to the Resilience Challenge Coastal Programme
  • Dr Judy Lawrence (Victoria University of Wellington): Coastal adaptation and enabling managed retreat
  • Rick Kool (Technical University of Denmark & Victoria University of Wellington): Adaptation of two-waters infrastructure to sea level rise - Petone case study
  • Dr Rob Bell (NIWA): Future work within the Resilience Challenge Coastal Programme

This free webinar will be useful to anyone involved in climate adaptation and coastal planning within central or local government, iwi and hapū, and coastal communities, as well as researchers and students. There will be an opportunity to ask questions of the research team.

A recording of the webinar will be made available afterwards if you are unable to attend live.

Get the link here. Note that there is no need to book. You just follow the link to your calendar and a link to the webinar is in the information.

Spartina search dogs

Spartina was introduced into New River estuary in Southland during the 1940s/50s to aid reclamation work being carried out in the days before they understood how important estuaries are. Spartina rapidly spread and by the time it was realised the impact it was having on the estuary it had affected approximately 800 ha of New River and spread into four other Southland estuaries.

Large scale control of spartina in Southland was started in 1989, led by the Department of Conservation, targeting the large infestations. While the control of these large areas was achieved several years ago the ongoing challenge has been finding isolated plants within the large tidal flats that make up our estuaries. This work has been carried out by a small team of experienced staff, spending hours searching for small isolated plants in very varied conditions. With fewer and fewer plants present, improving the ability to find these plants before seeding occurred was being discussed and it was out of these discussions that the possibility of being able to train a dog to find these isolated plants was raised.

While the use of Detector dogs in New Zealand is nothing new, the use of a dog to find a weed species at very low densities is.

In October 2017 Southland Department of Conservation staff talked with John Taylor, a local dog trainer, about the possibility of training a dog to find Spartina in areas of very low density. John obtained a young collie (Wink) and in a controlled environment was able to train him to indicate on spartina plants. A field trial was undertaken in an area in New River estuary in February 2018 where DOC staff searched an area and recorded any plants found then two days later the dog searched the same area and any plants found recorded. This trial proved very successful with the dog finding all recorded plants plus two extra that staff hadn’t found. Between February and April 2018 Wink was used in conjunction with DOC staff to search for plants in several of our estuaries and continued to show the benefit of using a dog to assist in this work.

Early in 2019 a second dog (Bailey) was trained to detect spartina and started work in March 2019 being handled by a local DOC staff member. Both dogs work well together and complement each other with their different search techniques.

Three years ago, Kiwi bank became a project partner to the Conservation Dog Programme. This has enabled the Department to increase its work in both the pest detection and threatened species detection areas which includes supporting emerging new areas of work such as the Spartina programme.

The success of the dogs has seen John and Wink traveling to several different areas in the North and South Islands searching for Spartina on behalf of Regional Councils and DOC, with Bailey also spending 10 days working in the Nelson region this year.

While the use of dogs to detect spartina plants has proved very successful, the dog will not replace the small teams of very experienced staff who have spent hundreds of hours in estuaries searching for these elusive plants, but rather will work alongside these dedicated people performing a very important role.

Graeme Miller

Dog Handler

Conservation Dog Programme

Department of Conservation

Murihiku District