Te Ārai Dunes

Size: 48 hectares

Site description

Te Ārai Dunes biodiversity focus area extends along the sand dunes on Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland’s north-east coast from the regional boundary on Te Ārai beach to Poutawa Stream on Pākiri Beach, excluding Te Ārai headland.

This biodiversity focus area includes reserves administered by both the Department of Conservation and Auckland Council.

Dunes and Poutawa stream at Te Ārai Beach.
Spinifex, pīngao grassland or sedgeland ecosystem (DN2) at Te Ārai Beach. The Poutawa stream winds through the dynamic dune system.
Photo credit: Andrew Macdonald, Biospatial Ltd 2018


Te Ārai Dunes biodiversity focus area includes one of the largest active sand dune ecosystems (DN2) remaining in Tāmaki Makaurau. It adjoins the Pākiri Dunes biodiversity focus area to the south which continues on down this stretch of coastline.

Natural sand dune ecosystems are considered to be a national priority for protection due to the extensive modification of sand dunes around the country for coastal development and agriculture. Active sand dunes such as the Te Ārai Dunes have a regional threat ranking of Endangered.


Plant communities on active dunes are exposed to constant wind-blown sand and salt spray. Spinifex, a native sand-binding species, is the dominant species on the seaward face of the dunes, with large patches of shore bindweed and localised patches of pīngao.

Pohuehue and knobby club-rush are common on the inland side of the dune. There are also small freshwater seepages and a perched wetland in a seepage area with an interesting assemblage of vegetation.

Te Ārai Beach.
The Te Ārai Dunes biodiversity focus area that stretches from Pākiri Stream to Te Ārai Point and the northern boundary of Auckland.
Photo credit: Andrew Macdonald, Biospatial Ltd 2018

Native fauna

The dunes and foreshore provide important habitat for threatened and common native bird species including:

  • tūturiwhatu (New Zealand dotterel)
  • tōrea pango (variable oystercatcher)
  • taranui (Caspian tern).

Te Ārai and Pākiri beaches are some of only a few of the sites where tara iti (New Zealand fairy tern) nest. This species is highly threatened with extinction and is classified as Threatened – Nationally Critical.

Native skinks are found in the dunes, as well as a black morph of the katipo spider - another species considered to be at risk of extinction.