Size: 742 hectares

Site description

The Whatipū biodiversity focus area covers an extensive area of sand dunes on Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland’s west coast, extending from Karekare Point south to Whatipū.

Since the 1930s, the high tide mark has extended nearly 2km west of its original position at the base of the cliffs due to sand accretion (accumulation). These accreted dunes are unique in Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland and are a landform of national significance.

The area was officially made a Scientific Reserve in 2002 and is now dedicated to scientific study, research and education for the benefit of the country.

The area is buffered by the marine environment on one side and on the other transitions into the native forest clad Waitākere Ranges. The forest and dunes combined are an extensive and diverse area of intact native habitat. It is a remote wilderness area of extremely high biodiversity value.

Whatipu and Manukau Harbour.
The dynamic dune system defines the extent of saline and freshwater wetland at Whatipu.
Photo credit: Andrew Macdonald, Biospatial Ltd 2019

Key ecosystems

The ecosystem values of Whatipū include:

  • Extensive areas of spinifex and pīngao dominated vegetation (DN2) on the active dunes, closest to the sea where there is an abundant supply of wind-blown sand.
  • Oioi, knobby clubrush sedgeland and herbfields (DN5) on the dune plains inland of the active dunes.
  • Wetland vegetation surrounding a series of permanent and ephemeral dune lakes. Wetland ecosystems include large areas of Machaerina sedgeland (WL11) with abundant kuta and jointed twig rush, raupō reedland (WL19), and occasional patches of flaxland (WL18).
  • Small patches of native treeland scattered along the base of the cliffs.
Whatipu Biodiversity Focus Area.
The northern end of the Whatipu Biodiversity Focus Area.
Photo credit: Andrew Macdonald, Biospatial Ltd 2019
Various vegetation at Whatipu.
Dune, saline and freshwater vegetation stretches from the sea to the coastal cliffs and forest of the Waitākere Ranges.
Photo credit: Andrew Macdonald, Biospatial Ltd 2019

Habitat values

The dunes, associated lakes and wetlands provide significant habitat for wildlife. Native bird species include:

  • matuku hūrepo (Australasian bittern)
  • mātātā (fernbird)
  • taranui (Caspian tern)
  • pīhoihoi (pipit)
  • koitareke (marsh crake)
  • weweia (dabchick)
  • tara (white-fronted tern)
  • tūturiwhatu (New Zealand dotterel)
  • pohowera (banded dotterel)
  • tōrea pango (variable oystercatcher)
  • poaka (pied stilt).
Vegetation within the Whatipu Biodiversity Focus Area.
The complexity of the vegetation mosaic can be seen from above.
Photo credit: Andrew Macdonald, Biospatial Ltd 2019

Related ecosystems