In the “Pingao (or Pikao) the Golden Sand Sedge

The Pikao recovery group is a interdisciplinary cross organisational group consisting of local Runaka, Department of Conservation, Dunedin City Council, Otago University, Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust, and local persons with an interest in the coastal environment.

The group was formed in 1992, coinciding with the creation by DOC staff of The Pikao Recovery Plan for the Otago Conservancy1. A symposium held at Otakou Marae in 1993 created significant interest from groups all over the South Island. The two-day symposium covered topics such as propagation methods, restoration techniques, and featured weaving demonstrations and practical propagation demonstrations.

Since that time, the Pikao Recovery Group meet regularly and have overseen the planting of a number of sites which include:

  • Waikouaiti Beach
  • Warrington Beach
  • Te Rauone Beach
  • Pilots Beach
  • Victory Beach
  • Sandfly Bay
  • St Clair
  • St Kilda
  • Moturata Island Taieri Mouth.

The group has also been involved in surveying sites where remnant plant colonies are to be found, and in protecting these from further loss. Much of this work has involved co-ordinating volunteers from youth, conservation, and other organisations as part of the group’s advocacy for the protection of the coastal dune environment. There has been further work by the group in utilising Pikao in amenity horticultural areas to increase the profile of the plant as a dune stabiliser and provide examples of the plant in accessible areas. These areas include:

  • John Wilson Drive
  • Lawyer's Head

Also, an interpretative plot exists at the Portobello Marine Studies Centre.

Kai Tahu papatipu runaka and roopu whanau groups have shade house facilities and work with pikao in partnership with the Pikao Recovery Group at Huirapa, Otakou, Moeraki and Moturata. Plant propagation is being undertaken by a number of groups around the district from seed collected on established and created sites. 

The group have developed a Memorandum of Understanding that will be a guiding document for future development of pikao as an important plant for cultural, amenity and coastal protection uses. The Memorandum seeks to formalise the relationship between land management organisations and the community in partnership.

Sowing the Seeds: Protection, Advocacy, & Community

Pikao can be successfully grown from locally collected seed as iwi, the Department of Conservation, Dunedin City Council, and various community organisations around Dunedin have proven. From these small beginnings several trial plantings have occurred on a number of sites around Dunedin and Otago. Trials have assisted the Recovery group in creating larger more established plant areas for sustainable harvest and for seed collection. The Pikao Recovery Group have through its activities created a wide community network that through its inter organisational nature are able to integrate its information and expertise to community groups requiring information. Further, the group have been able to assist local coastal organisations establish their own areas of pikao and advocate community protection of our fragile dune environment. The Pikao Recovery Group feels that it is appropriate to extend the work of reintroducing pikao to the coastal region because of the following:

  • The Group itself has a stable membership that have through dialogue and actions a common focus on the use, introduction, and monitoring of Pikao in the coastal zone.
  • Questions on cultural use and protocols for use have iwi and land management processes developed that assist in management questions of cultural harvest.
  • Community organisations are better organised and developed than previously through community funding and liaison work with iwi, DOC, and the Dunedin City Council.
  • There is significant local interest in coastal issues due to recent climatic change that has altered traditional beach areas.
  • There is strong community feeling over ecosystem protection and public response to protecting unique sites for our mokopuna (grandchildren).

Current Pikao Recovery Group work includes:

  • Creating an inventory of all plant populations, plotting their position on GPS and describing their general condition and whether or not they are natural or replanted.
  • The 10, 000 plants project was initiated by the planting of over 100 trays of seed in November 2000. These plants will be ready for pricking out in late summer early Autumn 2001 and will be planted out in 2002. This is a great opportunity for the community to get involved due to the sheer mass of plants.
  • A hui has been proposed for winter 2001 to discuss pikao conservation and to promote and encourage participation by interested groups.
  • Research into pikao seed germination and the effectiveness of Treepel, an animal repellent at discouraging browse.
  • Production of a pamphlet on pikao.
  • Promotion of pikao and The Pikao Recovery Group at Seaweek.

For more information on the Pikao Recovery Group feel free to contact those listed.


  1. DOC (1992). Pingao Recovery Plan. Otago Conservancy 1993-1998. Department of Conservation, Dunedin.
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