Caring for our place, protecting our pīngao

| By Yani Ferens and Ngataki School students

Pīngao are the eyebrows of Tānemahuta

Pīngao, Ficinia spiralis, is a stout, golden-green sand sedge, 30–90 cm tall, found on active sand dunes.

Our students from Ngataki school were privileged to work in a close relationship with our local pīngao kaitiaki, Betsy Young. We have travelled to Rarawa Beach on a regular basis to sit with pīngao and get to know it more intimately. One of the highlights of this approach has been going out to Rarawa Beach to observe the areas where the pīngao is growing, to teach the ākonga/ students to be still with it and observe its life cycle and what’s impacting it.  With Betsy Young’s support, students learnt about the plant’s history, and how to identify, harvest, grow, prick out, and replant pīngao seeds at the correct time of year.

Seven year 8 students completed an inquiry project on the importance of pīngao and what actions we could take to help bring about education and awareness and protection.



You can see a photo story of this learning inquiry and inspiring examples of the students work here! 2021_ES_Northland_Ngataki Pingao Photo story

Students learnt about the sand binding properties of the pīngao plant and the damage done by storms and other disturbances.

Outcomes achieved for ākonga were:

  • Understanding components of pīngao lifecycle and fitting these into the kaupeka (yearly processes cycle).
  • Students created a deeper relationship with the pīngao plant through a deeper knowing of the pīngao story and whakapapa.
  • Students are wondering, working together, making connections with the natural world and Māori traditions.
  • Learning basic skills around native propagation.
  • Ngataki students collected seeds to propagate.
  • Students propagated these seeds.
  • Students planted seedlings propagated by Betsy last year in the dunes at Rarawa.
  • Signs designed by students and are ready for printing.
  • Students documented in various ways what students observed and noticed (written, photographic and video.
  • Betsy’s hot house installed.
  • Article in the local newspaper – Ngataki School kids restore Rarawa Beach dunes with pingao showcasing the fund.
  • Plays were created for the end of year production (however due to covid these pīngao stories were not performed).

There is more to come – actions for pīngao to be completed in 2022

  • The creation of permanent signage to be created by tamariki and installed at Rarawa beach to educate the public about the importance of pīngao.
  • Propagated plants will be in the care of our tamariki until they are big and strong enough for planting back out on the dunes.
  • Students visit hot house and propagate pīngao there.
  • Engaging with others in our community – Te Hapua School, Waiora Marae – Whānau and Pukenui Kohanga tamariki

Tempest observes and sketches.

Observational drawings.