Island Bay Coast Care

24 February 2010

For the past seven years, the Island Bay Coast Care group, a collection of enthusiastic local residents, has been involved in restoring the sand dunes at the western end of Island Bay.

The group initially became involved in the work after noticing a bulldozer on the dunes clearing a path through the vegetation to put in a boardwalk. They then approached Wellington City Council to work with them to change this project into a dune-restoration effort.

Each winter the group plants native foredune plants such as pingao, spinifex, nihinihi and New Zealand ice plant. The plants trap the sand that would otherwise be lost due to wind erosion, and build up the dunes. As a result the level of the beach rises, which gives protection to the coastline.

The rest of the year, the group concentrates on carefully removing weeds to make way for the native plants.

Island Bay Coast Care coordinator Willemijn Vermaat says New Zealand native dune plants have become rare giving way to invasive weeds that took over after grazing, road works and burning removed the natural dune vegetation in the last 1900s.

Thanks to the hard work of the group, pingao and spinifex are making a comeback, however Willemijn says there are a few simple things people can do to help keep the dunes safe for everyone to enjoy.

"Dune plants die if people or dogs walk on them as the growth spines can break if you step on them. People should use the walkways provided, walk on the bare sand and not the plants, take their rubbish home, and keep children and dogs off the dunes."

The group is supported by the Greater Wellington Take Care programme, which provides funding for plants, tools, signs and sandladders, and coffee and tea at community planting days. Additionally, Wellington City Council donates 500 native plants every year, and helps to control invasive weeds such as marram grass, by spraying them.

"The South Coast park ranger, Brian Thomas, is always present to give us a helping hand at our care days, and he is great in assisting us on projects or to give us advice," says Willemijn.

If you would like to help the group with planting and weeding at the dunes in Island Bay, you can contact Willemijn Vermaat on (04) 383 8522 or email

"There is nothing better than working at the dunes on a Saturday morning, enjoying the beautiful views over the Cook Strait while your fruitful work helps the sand dunes to grow."