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Published: 2014-07-04 00:00:00

Want to help restore and protect Port Waikato’s dunes? Families are invited to join volunteers at an upcoming working bee to plant 1200 native plants which will help to address coastal erosion and improve biodiversity at the west coast beach.

The school holiday event is being held on Saturday 12 July from 1-3pm and has been organised by Port Waikato Beachcare, with support from the Ngati Karewa Ngati Tahinga Trust, Waikato Regional Council and the Department of Conservation (DOC). 

The Port Waikato Beachcare group re-formed last year and volunteers have since spent about 420 hours cleaning up the dunes and planting more than 5500 dune plants and native trees. Some of the 940 native trees were raised by locals from plants that sprouted under large native trees from kereru droppings. 

The regional council’s Beachcare programme has been supporting the group’s efforts to restore a 20 hectare dune area damaged in a 2012 scrub fire, and the volunteers also received a grant through the council’s environmental initiatives fund. 

During the upcoming working bee, 150 native trees will be planted in part of the area badly affected by the scrub fire. A further 1200 dune plants – including 400 pingao, an endangered native plant that is highly valued by Maori for weaving – will go in a blown-out dune area. The event will also have a focus on encouraging young people to get involved in conservation. 

“Dunes play an important role in protecting beaches from coastal erosion and flooding caused by a combination of massive storms and high tides,” said the regional council’s Beachcare coordinator, Sam Stephens. 

“Native plants trap sand, building a buffer, and allow the dunes to self-repair following big storm events.” 

At Port Waikato, the dunes are home to a population of the endangered New Zealand dotterel, which DOC and volunteers have been working to protect. 

While the dunes are home habitat for a number of threatened native birds, Mr Stephens said they also have other important biodiversity benefits, such as providing a home for native insects and lizards, which in turn are food for the native birds. 

“However, the dunes are fragile and can easily be destroyed by vehicles, and the native plants can be excluded by weeds. That’s why the work of Beachcare volunteers is so important,” he said. 

Every year, Waikato Regional Council funds more than 50,000 native plants for planting by volunteers involved in 20 Beachcare groups across the region. 

Beachcare groups are supported by the Waikato Regional Council, iwi and district councils. Visit to find out more. 

What:              Port Waikato Beachcare working bee: all ages welcome 

When:             1-3pm, Saturday 12 July 

Where:            Meet at the end of Mission Rd, Port Waikato, then follow the signs to the planting location. Please bring a spade if you can.