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Native plant used in sand dune restoration in short supply

Kim Lawry, Project Manager of Mercury Bay Environmental Trust.

Posted on May 3, 2023

A Coromandel environmental group has warned that spinifex, a native plant used in sand dune restoration after erosion events, could be in short supply this year.

Due to ‘coastal squeeze’ – development occurring closer and closer to the beach – spinifex does not have the room it needs to reproduce naturally.

Instead, Mercury Bay Environmental Trust collects seeds from the dune grass each year. Plants are grown by local nurseries, then the trust plants seedlings back into the dunes the following year.

Mercury Bay Environmental Trust volunteer Kim Lawry said Cyclone Hale severely disrupted the process this season.

“We raced out and got what we could in the weekend before it [Cyclone Hale]. When the cyclone had passed and we went back, the dunes and the spinifex were pretty bedraggled,” Lawry said.

Spinifex seedheads are collected each summer and the seeds grown for the next year’s plantings.

He said a lot of the heads were gone. As spinifex drops seedheads when the seeds are ready, it was clear that all the best seeds were also gone.

The trust was not really sure what plants will be able to be grown from the seeds they do have this year.

“As we learn more and more about the role of spinifex we are going to need more and more plants,” Lowry said.

He said for example, Thames-Coromandel District Council’s shoreline management plan has dune planting as one of its main recommendations.

“If we were to implement that plan, just here on the peninsula, we’d need ten times the number of plants each year that we are able to get at the moment.”

Coastcare volunteers collect spinifex seedheads at Buffalo Beach during summer.

Collecting the seed was labour intensive and there was not much money to be made growing the plants.

Lawry believed innovation in collecting and growing the seed was needed.

Despite the challenges, restoration work will still continue this year, he said.



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