'Sugar-coated' help to restore Rarawa Beach

Last updated 07:39 06/01/2009

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Rarawa Beach is getting a helping hand thanks to a joint effort between Ngataki School, a local nursery and the Department of Conservation.

The beach is home to dotterels and oyster catchers, and the ecosystem is under threat because of natural and man-made causes.

Ngataki School, with the help of DOC, has adopted the beach and has been taking steps to help restore it.

In December, students planted 120 of the rare coastal plant Holloway’s Crystalwort – Atriplex hollowayi, a small native annual herb that grows near the high tide level on sandy beaches.

The plant used to grow throughout New Zealand on the east coast as far south as Wellington, but over the last 100 years has retreated northwards and is quickly becoming extinct.

Tiny glistening lumps on the leaves make the plant appear as though it has been dusted with sugar, hence the name ‘crystalwort’.

Wayne Petera who manages the Native Tree Nursery at Te Manawa o Ngati Kuri in Ngataki and tutors a NorthTec sustainable rural development level four course propagated the Hollway’s Crystalwort seeds that were collected by DOC.

"It needs all the help it can get and it’s in our power to make good changes that help the environment," says Mr Petera.

Pingao, a native dune plant, donated by Betsy Young were planted at the same time to protect the dunes that are eroding.

DOC’s Far North threatened plants ranger Janeen Collings says it’s a fantastic opportunity to work in the community and give seed to local people.

"We’re trying to reintroduce the plant where it used to exist so it can re-populate and begin doing it naturally without our help," she says.

"It’s not easy because of the large number of vehicles on the beach and the inappropriate driving near the dunes at high tide," she says.

Mr Petera wants to form a community group of like-minded people to further dune restoration work, protect the dotterels and to restore Rarawa Beach.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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