Cadets caring for our coastlines

Published on 12 March 2024


Meeting the Mayor – From left: Shelly Balsom, Mayor Len Salt, Geordie Wilson, Roman Carley, Andrea Whitehead

Our coastline’s recovery from major storms is being given a boost from a group of new cadets, who’re learning on the job how to take care of dunes to support their long-term resilience.

Three local people have taken up coastal kaitiaki roles with our Council, getting stuck into work on dune restoration and storm recovery as part of Mayors Taskforce For Jobs (MTFJ) and our Council’s Recovery Fund (granted by central government).

Shelly Balsom, Geordie Wilson, and Roman Carley are all employed as Coastal Kaitiaki, working alongside senior Council staff on dune care projects.

“We’re planting to enable self-repair following erosion, so it’s really important work. It’s a change of scenery every day, going to different places, meeting different people,” says Geordie. “It’s awesome to be working outdoors, plus we get to jump in the ocean on our lunch break.”

Monitoring the dunes in Matarangi The community employment programme sees the cadets employed on six-month contracts. Their positions are jointly funded through our Council's Recovery Fund, and MSD Projects in Community Funding.

The Mayors Taskforce For Jobs covers their training costs, including help with attaining driver licenses, first aid courses and training to use agri-chemicals safely.

Our Mayor Len Salt met with the cadets recently at Whitianga.

“I’m so impressed with the way these workers have seized the opportunity. They’re very quickly coming up to speed with some of the big challenges for our coastlines, and are learning skills to help deal with those,” says our Mayor Len Salt.

“They’re making a local impact in their own communities, which sets them up well for future work in our region as we all grapple with how to create resilient, sustainable environments to live in.”

Looking at the spinifex runners – Geordie Wilson

The Coastal Kaitiaki roles are recovery-focused to address dune erosion that occurred along the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, as a result of three stormy winters, including Cyclone Gabrielle. Natural dune repair depends on a good cover of native sand binding grasses. The cadets have been clearing dunes of weeds that washed in during the storm, as well as collecting seed for future plantings.

“We’re seeing the impacts of these weeds taking over, our native plants need space to be healthy. There’s already been a positive impact from the work our cadets are putting in and they’ve only been here a couple of weeks,” says Andrea Whitehead, our Council’s Coastal Restoration Coordinator. “They’re learning a huge amount about the dynamics and natural processes of our beaches.”

At the end of their contracts, our Council's MTFJ team will support the cadets to update their CVs and identify further employment opportunities in our region. 

Working Bee with the Mercury Bay Environmental Trust in Whitianga.

About Mayors Taskforce For Jobs

MTFJ is a movement of mayors around Aotearoa who advocate for a bottom-up approach to employment solutions to deliver the Community Employment Programme (CEP) along with broader initiatives.

In particular, CEP is a nationwide partnership between Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) that’s delivering great outcomes in our rural and provincial communities. It’s championed by mayors who are working together towards the vision of all young people 16-25 engaged in employment, education, or training in their communities.