Eco-warriors wage war on weeds in Hicks Bay

Rubbish comes under the spotlight too.

Rubbish comes under the spotlight too.

“DISAPPOINTING”: During the weeding work, the group discovered a large amount of rubbish dumped along the beach and in the sand dunes. They pitched in and cleared out as much as they could. Picture supplied
WHANAU EFFORT: Volunteers from Incedo-Hamilton and Matakaoa took part in a weekend beach clean-up and weed clearing session at Oneroa, Hicks Bay. Picture supplied

PROTECTING their sand dunes from invasive weeds and clearing up a small mountain of rubbish were the focus of a Hicks Bay community group project.

Matakaoa eco-warrior Moerangi Tetapuhi said looking after their taonga was a “big job”, and the amount of rubbish they found on the beach was disappointing.

“The whanau dug in and pulled a huge load off the beach. Unfortunately, there is still a lot down there.

“If we want tangaroa to look after us, we need to look after tangaroa.”

During the weekend, the group were lucky enough to spot nesting New Zealand dotterel along the beach, which are rarer than kiwi.

The bulk of the weekend work involved protecting the native pingao (golden sand sedge) population from invasive pampas weeds.

Pingao, an endemic plant, grows naturally on most coastal sand dunes and helps control erosion where it grows abundantly.

It has declined nationally, although many populations are being maintained through protection and management.

Working bee and wananga

Along with volunteers from Christian group Incedo Hamilton, 70 people turned out from the community for a weekend working bee and wananga.

Department of Conservation ranger Graeme Atkins said volunteers learned about how pingao protects beaches in storms and high seas.

“Even if it looks like a disaster with half the dune gone the plants have evolved to cope.

“With the return of good weather, the sands blow back and dunes are built up again. It's a dynamic landscape.”

But the South American pampas grass can smother the native pingao. A healthy wild native population exists in Wharekahika, but it is under threat from pampas, browsing feral animals (it provides a great habitat for rats), and stock wandering on the beach.

“It can often be mistaken as our native toetoe,” Mr Atkins said.

“But you can tell the difference as pampas leaves break easily while toetoe has many strands to make it hard to break.”

Other weeds threatening this habitat include kikuyu grass and gorse, which do help stabilise the dunes, but to the detriment of native species. Endemic sand binders such as pingao and spinifex favour free-flowing sand.

PROTECTING their sand dunes from invasive weeds and clearing up a small mountain of rubbish were the focus of a Hicks Bay community group project.

Matakaoa eco-warrior Moerangi Tetapuhi said looking after their taonga was a “big job”, and the amount of rubbish they found on the beach was disappointing.

“The whanau dug in and pulled a huge load off the beach. Unfortunately, there is still a lot down there.

“If we want tangaroa to look after us, we need to look after tangaroa.”

During the weekend, the group were lucky enough to spot nesting New Zealand dotterel along the beach, which are rarer than kiwi.

The bulk of the weekend work involved protecting the native pingao (golden sand sedge) population from invasive pampas weeds.

Pingao, an endemic plant, grows naturally on most coastal sand dunes and helps control erosion where it grows abundantly.

It has declined nationally, although many populations are being maintained through protection and management.

Working bee and wananga

Along with volunteers from Christian group Incedo Hamilton, 70 people turned out from the community for a weekend working bee and wananga.

Department of Conservation ranger Graeme Atkins said volunteers learned about how pingao protects beaches in storms and high seas.

“Even if it looks like a disaster with half the dune gone the plants have evolved to cope.

“With the return of good weather, the sands blow back and dunes are built up again. It's a dynamic landscape.”

But the South American pampas grass can smother the native pingao. A healthy wild native population exists in Wharekahika, but it is under threat from pampas, browsing feral animals (it provides a great habitat for rats), and stock wandering on the beach.

“It can often be mistaken as our native toetoe,” Mr Atkins said.

“But you can tell the difference as pampas leaves break easily while toetoe has many strands to make it hard to break.”

Other weeds threatening this habitat include kikuyu grass and gorse, which do help stabilise the dunes, but to the detriment of native species. Endemic sand binders such as pingao and spinifex favour free-flowing sand.

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