Pikao or pingao (Ficinia spiralis) is a beautiful golden sedge that once covered the coastal sand dunes from Northland to Stewart Island. In Otago pikao is largely missing from the coastal dune systems where it was once prevalent due to imported marram grass (Amophila arenaria) that has largely dominated dune systems since its introduction in the 1890’s. Today, on the Otago Peninsula pikao exists only in small isolated pockets and much of that material has been re-introduced by a variety of groups concerned with dune restoration.
In 2009 Paul Pope from Spiralis Ltd began a pikao planting project at Allan’s Beach with pupils from Portobello School. The project was designed to develop a small area at the entrance to the beach ostensibly to create an ecosourced seed collection area and to provide a close up view of pikao to the many Dunedin and overseas visitors to the beach. Over the last two years the school has successfully been able to see pikao survive and flourish in the area and success has created interest from other groups within the community. The Save the Otago Peninsula organisation have joined with the school to become part of the project and have been actively raising funds from a variety of sources for the continued planting. Spiralis Ltd have offered four years of sponsorship to the School for plant propagation so that the project can continue. Kia tipu tonu ake ake ake.