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Volunteers lend a hand to protect BOP beaches

Volunteers help plant native sand dune plants at Waihi Beach earlier this year. Photo/Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

Almost 70,000 native plants have been dug into Bay of Plenty sand dunes this winter – by local volunteers.

The plantings, part of Coast Care Bay of Plenty, will help regenerate sand dunes and ensure they are not lost to erosion, weather or careless behaviour across beaches.

“We couldn’t have done it without the help of our volunteers so a huge thank you to them,” says Coast Care Bay of Plenty Regional Coordinator Paul Greenshields.

“Our coastal sand dunes are one of the most degraded natural ecosystems in New Zealand yet they are an integral part of our beaches so we have to actively work to protect and regenerate them.

“We know that native sand dune plants play a vital role in maintaining the dunes, by binding light blowing sand onto the beach, and making sand dunes more stable. Without these plants, the sand blows away and dunes disappear – leaving the land vulnerable to weather and wave surges.”

Greenshields says more than 4300 volunteers and another 2700 school students spent 7895 hours to get the plants into the ground between June and September.

In the Bay of Plenty region, from Waihī to the East Cape, there is just 3000 hectares of coastal sand dune plants left compared to 12,000 hectares pre humans.

Coast Care Bay of Plenty programme started 25 years ago and since then 250,000 volunteers have donated 300,000 hours of their time to plant 1.5 million plants along the sandy coastline of the Bay of Plenty.

“This work is essential if we want beaches to enjoy in the future. In the mid 90's the coastline was eroded, the dunes where not performing as they should and the community and it's infrastructure was under threat with every large storm that would hit."

The native sand dune plants dug back into sand dunes included pingao, spiniflex and pohuehue.

They also provide habitat for some of New Zealand native and endemic coastal flora and fauna.

“Volunteers have helped to build a resilient community by increasing the performance of the dune system and creating a natural buffer to sea level rise and the effect of climate change."

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