New Zealand

Kaupokonui a haven on wild South Taranaki coast

Kaupokonui beach is the sort of place that makes you feel homesick for childhood summers.

Over holidays in the warmer months, the campground is packed with families in caravans, cabins and tents, enjoying swimming and fishing in the river and surf beach.

Come August 15, and the opening of the whitebait season, whitebaiters in coats and gumboots head down hoping for a good haul.

Kaupokonui Beach Camp in South Taranaki.

Catherine Groenestein/Stuff

Kaupokonui Beach Camp in South Taranaki.

But on good days inbetween, it’s a peaceful, sleepy spot, with families enjoying the campground play equipment and people walking the beach or simply parked up to eat a workday lunch.

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Kaupokonui is tucked at the bottom of a hill with chocolate box-worthy views of Mt Taranaki and the sea, on a tough stretch of coastline that is inaccessible in many places.

Eltham-based grandmother Lyn Wood likes to plonk herself at a picnic table by the river with her coffee and a book, to enjoy the sunshine after dropping her grandchildren at school.

“It’s a glorious place to be, a nice place to walk along the beach at low tide, and it’s a safe area,” she said.

Kaupokonui Beach in South Taranaki.

Catherine Groenestein/Stuff

Kaupokonui Beach in South Taranaki.

Bonita Bigham, Manaia, a member of Ngaruahine iwi and Ngati Tu hapu, remembers many happy summers with her extended family in a bach moved there in the 1970s.

“For those of us who grew up at Kaupokonui camping every summer and playing on the sandhills and swimming in the river, these are treasured memories that no-one will ever be able to take away, or appreciate unless you were part of those idyllic summers at the beach.”

In winter, 2018, the wild Tasman tides washed up nine dead whales along this area of coast.

Being part of the iwi team who worked alongside New Zealand's acknowledged expert on whale recovery to harvest parts they could use and bury the whales they could reach, is something she will never forget.

One of the whales washed up near the Kaupokonui river mouth in 2018.

Grant Matthew/Stuff

One of the whales washed up near the Kaupokonui river mouth in 2018.

“I didn’t think I could love Kaupokonui more than I already did, but that experience has added a whole new layer of meaning and significance to the area for me, definitely.”

Access to the beach is over a footbridge and Maori reserve land, an area with huge historical significance.

“When people cross that bridge they are able to do so through the generosity of the landowners on the other side,” she said.

“We ask people to remember it’s a significant Maori reserve, there is an urupa over there and the reserve has Heritage NZ listed status, it’s more than just a playground.”

The Taranaki Regional Council’s inventory of areas with local or regional significance lists the Kaupokonui Stream and beach as an important ‘moa-hunting’ archaeological area, a spawning site for inanga (one of the native fish species caught as whitebait) and home to the Taranaki variety of Notoreas, an endemic species of day-flying moth.

Jill Taylor and her daughter Ava walk their three dogs Yoda, Lulu and Lottie, several times a week at Kaupokonui Beach in South Taranaki.

Catherine Groenestein/Stuff

Jill Taylor and her daughter Ava walk their three dogs Yoda, Lulu and Lottie, several times a week at Kaupokonui Beach in South Taranaki.

Jill Taylor and her daughter Ava, who live on a farm nearby, walk along Kaupokonui Beach several times a week with their dogs Yoda, Lulu and Lottie.

“It’s not crowded and it’s clean,” Jill said.

“Everyone has their dogs on leads, and they pick up after them, everyone seems to respect this place, which is nice.”

The sandhills at Kaupokonui Beach are popular with children.

Catherine Groenestein/Stuff

The sandhills at Kaupokonui Beach are popular with children.

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