About 50 students from Ahipara School marked Conservation Week by helping restore the dunes along Te Oneroa a Tōhē or Ninety Mile Beach.
The young kaitiaki joined forces with Te Rarawa hapū collective Ahipara Takiwā, the Northland Regional Council and the Department of Conservation earlier this week to replant sand dunes at Mapere on the Ahipara foreshore.
Te Rarawa environmental co-ordinator Rongo Bentson said the Mapere block was an area of environmental and cultural significance, and the dunes had been the focus of restoration efforts by Ahipara Takiwā in recent years because of erosion.
"It's so great to see our kaitiaki of the future involved in this restoration work and supported by DOC and NRC," he said.
"They're not just learning about conservation, but putting it into practice right here at home," Bentson said.
NRC CoastCare coordinator Laura Shaft said the volunteers planted hundreds of native tihetihe (spinifex or tumbleweed) plants, which helped to rebuild dunes by trapping wind-blown sand.
"Tihetihe runners can spread up to seven metres per year, which helps to spread the plants and secure the dunes from erosion," Shaft said.
The plants were provided by the NRC's Environment Fund with the seeds collected at Ahipara.
DOC community ranger Jaden Lewis said the next generation needed to be taught kaitiaki values and why looking after the environment was important.
"A lot of schools and teachers want to instil these values to students, and we have the passion and commitment to help," he said.
"It was outstanding to see the children so involved and willing to take part. They were ready and able to answer why we're doing this mahi and talk about the importance of planting to restore the dunes to how they're meant to be," he said.
Also planted on the back dunes were harakeke (flax) and pohutukawa grown by Te Rarawa Tuia Nursery.