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New plantings to protect sand dunes at Riversdale

Jenni and Shorty Johnston, of Masterton, who own a bach at Riversdale Beach helping with the planting. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Volunteers ranging in age from two to over 80 turned out on Saturday to plant 1700 native spinifex and pingao plants to future-proof dunes at Riversdale.

The planting, involving 40 people, was organised by the Riversdale Dune Committee to improve the resilience of the dunes and help protect the coastal settlement from the sea.

Masterton district councillor and environmental stalwart Chris Petersen said the dune committee was formed in the early 1990s to deal with coastal erosion that was threatening houses at the south end of the settlement.

With that job completed, the group continued planting in front of the reserve at the south end of the beach, then moved its activities to the surf club at the north end of the beach.

The group has been planting native plants in the dunes for more than 20 years, with great support from local families and schools, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Masterton District Council.

Saturday’s planting was just south of the surf club and was replacing introduced marram grass with the native dune grasses, spinifex and pingao.

Conservation Department ranger Garry Foster said marram grass led to steep, unstable dunes that were prone to “blowing out”.

He said native sand-binding plants created dunes with gentle slopes that repaired themselves after storms and offered better long-term protection for coastal land.

“It’s pretty simple – our native plants have evolved to deal with the power of the Pacific Ocean and have been successfully creating a buffer between the land and the sea for thousands of years.

“If we look after them, they look after us. Our native birds, lizards and insects prefer them too.”

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