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New Zealand Journal of Forestry (1964) 9(2): 146–153
©New Zealand Institute of Forestry

Research article
Symposium: Sand Dune Reclamation in New Zealand

P.S. Whitehead

Estimates of the extent of sand in New Zealand have varied because authorities have adopted different standards of stability and maturity of soils derived from sand. Cockayne refers to 24,000 acres in the South Island and 290,000 acres in the North Island. A thousand years of Maori occupation had modified the vegetation of the sand country and caused some acceleration of wind erosion, but the last century of European settlement has initiated a cycle of more active sand movement, mainly through cattle grazing and burning. Some concern at the increase in sand drifts was expressed by individuals before the end of the nineteenth century but Government recognition of the problem appears first in the Sand Drift Act 1908. However, this remained a dead letter. Cockayne reported on the sand problem in 1911 and the Government initiated a pilot stabilization scheme at Tangimoana in 1915. This work was begun by the Lands Department but was taken over by the Forest Service on its formation in 1929. However, the Forests Act 1921-22 was not considered to provide authority for sand reclamation and in 1931 further schemes were undertaken by the Public Works Department, partly for relief of unemployment. Sand reclamation was greatly reduced during the last war, while the need to increase farm production led to a shift of emphasis to farm development. In 1951, the development of sand country was transferred to the Lands Department with the proviso that all reclamation would be the responsibility of the Forest Service. Further schemes were initiated under this new policy.
Pastoral occupation has caused considerable changes in vegetation. Some plants have disappeared, new plants have become established but the native sand-binders, Spinifex hirsutus, and Desmoschoenus spiralis remain. Introduced marram grass has become the most important primary stabilizer. None of the indigenous shrubs are sufficiently aggressive to be a satisfactory secondary stabilizer, a role filled primarily by Lupinus arboreus. The final or tertiary stabilizer is the forest for protection or production. The mainstay of the coastal forests is Pinus radiata.
The principles of sand reclamation have not changed but methods have altered in the direction of mechanization, improved transport and economy in manpower.

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