We present pollen diagrams and sedimentological analyses from a lake site within an extensive dune system on the Aupouri Peninsula, Northland. Five thousand years ago, a regional Agathis australis–podocarp-broadleaf forest dominated the vegetation, which manifested an increasing preponderance of conifer species. Climate was cooler and drier than at present. From ca. 3400 bp, warmth-loving species such as A. australis and drought-intolerant species, Dacrydium cupressinum and Ascarina lucida, became common, implying a warm and moist climate. The pollen record also suggests a windier climate. The most significant event in the record, however, occurred after ca. 900 bp (800 cal bp) when anthropogenic deforestation commenced. A dramatic decline in forest taxa followed, accompanied by the establishment of a Pteridium–esculentum-dominated community. Fire almost certainly caused this, evidenced by a dramatic increase of charcoal. Sedimentological evidence for this site indicates a relatively stable environment before humans arrived and an increasingly unstable environment with frequent erosional events after human contact.