A coast care group started in 2007 by Ted Frost is still going strong and Castlecliff people say its native plantings on the dunes are bringing birds back.

Castlecliff Coast Care held the first of two public planting days this winter on July 13.

About 30 people gathered to dig about 200 plants into the dunes opposite Seafront Rd, then socialise over afternoon tea in the Duncan Pavilion.

The coast care group aims to remove introduced wattle and weeds like boxthorn and climbing dock from the dunes, and replace them with native plants.

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"There are things like ngaio and coprosma that seem to have lots of lovely berries. Hopefully that's bringing the skinks and the birds," co-ordinator Graham Pearson said.

The dunes are almost pure sand - a harsh environment for new plantings. The group uses shelter from existing vegetation and landform and puts new plants into large holes, bolstered with wet newspaper, mulched bark and fertiliser pellets.

Most of the plants are donated, by Whanganui District Council or Geoff Potts' Parnell Nursery. The group is funded by grants from Horizons Region and Whanganui District councils, the Conservation Department and others.

Pearson and helper Paul Jackman do about 100 hours' work a month.

Saturday's planters were mainly Castlecliff regulars - but schools and Idea Services groups also do planting. The next public planting will be from 10am to noon on August 25, followed by a lunch of soup.

About 30 people rolled up to help at the Castlecliff Coast Care planting day on July 13. Photo / Lewis Gardner
About 30 people rolled up to help at the Castlecliff Coast Care planting day on July 13. Photo / Lewis Gardner

Some of the ngaio from early plantings are now 4m tall, fully established and very visible.

Castlecliff Coast Care now has council's 2018 Castlecliff Coastal Reserve Management Plan to work with. One of its goals is to do more planting on the exposed foredunes that face the sea - where the native sand-binding plant pingao is in decline.

The group has talked to traditional weavers at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, who would like pingao to use in weaving. It has collected pingao and spinifex seed, and sent it away to be grown on.

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There will be no point planting it on the foredunes if people continue to drive over them with motorbikes and four-wheelers, Pearson said.

"It needs to be safe from vehicles, so we need a change in attitude to the dunes, otherwise we will be wasting time and money."