Caroline Bay's dunes are getting bigger, better as restoration project takes hold

Thanks to sand-attracting plants, the dunes an Caroline Bay, in Timaru,  are growing up and expanding towards the sea.
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Thanks to sand-attracting plants, the dunes an Caroline Bay, in Timaru, are growing up and expanding towards the sea.

Tens of thousands of plants are helping Caroline Bay's sand dunes are getting bigger - with some surprising benefits for Timaru's port. 

The dune restoration project's fences were moved about two weeks ago due to the dunes expanding. 

Timaru District Council parks and recreation manager Bill Steans said native plants put in on the dunes were halting the progress of sand which would otherwise have been blown into the port.

That sand wold otherwise have got into port equipment, such as forklifts .

Sand-attracting plants were first planted in the dunes in 2009, and there were now more than 40 species of plant and about 76,000 plants in total on the dunes. 

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Steans said it was the second or third time the fences were moved. 

Most people respected the fences and used the boardwalk through the sand dune area, with few trying to walk on the dunes themselves,. 

Prime Port Timaru operations manager Keith Michel said sand could still be a problem when high winds swept through the area.

That said, the plantings had made a "significant" difference to the port's container terminal. 

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"[A few years ago] there really was a significant amount of sand blowing through the terminal," he said. 

"I don't think it's anywhere near as bad as it used to be." 

Timaru Container Terminal Ltd manager John Bromley said the plantings had "minimised" the issues with sand, but when the tide was out and there was a westerly wind blowing sand was still a nuisance. 

However, it did not stop the terminal operating, he said. 

Steans said some of the native plants did not survive in the Caroline Bay environment, but there was a "pretty high success rate". 

The dunes were growing up, and also expanding out towards the sea. The council had no end goal in mind when it came to how big they wanted the dunes to be, Steans said. 

"It's a natural process, so no matter what we decide nature is going to do what it wants to do." 

Once a year a group of geography students from the University of Otago came and studied the dunes, Steans said. 

The council  won a national award for its restoration of native plant life at Caroline Bay in 2014, from The New Zealand Plant Conservation Network (NZPCN) . 

The purpose of the awards was to acknowledge outstanding contributions to native plant conservation.

 - The Timaru Herald

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