Portobello School’s Pikao Planting Day

With some tough wind and sea conditions on the Otago Peninsula and a tired sea-lion weighing several hundred kilogram’s squashing pikao (Ficinia spiralis) while it snoozes in comfort, Allan’s Beach has had some tough times to deal with lately. A combination of south-westerly and easterly swells and high tides have  continued to erode the foredune toe of the area and along the beach for nearly 600-800 metres. However, undeterred staff and pupils of Portobello School, volunteers from local community group Save the Otago Peninsula and Spiralis Director Paul Pope braved the conditions to complete the planting of the site. This has been a steady yearly undertaking for the last three years and while the wind and tide have been tough the planted area is thriving and producing a valuable local seed source for future propagation efforts. The pupils from Portobello School have begun to adopt a philosophical attitude to the incursions of the Pacific Ocean on their hard work and it hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm for one of New Zealand’s most fascinating and beautiful plants.  As the pupils planted another 600 plants they also uncovered some of the beach’s more interesting invertebrate residents and a NZ skink (Oligosoma nigriplantare) from the sand. One of the resident male sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) also took time out to pay a close visit and inspect the work of the group. Disappointed that its comfortable pikao haul out site was unavailable while planting was underway, he morosely returned to the surf, pondering his next move.

The Otago Peninsula provides significant climatic and physical challenges as a coastal restoration area, but the rewards are equally significant and its been exciting to watch the progress of the plants at the beach and the way they create a new splash of vibrant colour to the dunes. As a community we are very fortunate to be able to educate and raise children in a place where they can participate and learn from such a rich environment. It provides them with new challenges and experiences that will hopefully help them develop a deeper understanding of the fragility and fascination of this unique area.

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