The precious sandspit
By John Robinson
The sandspit at the mouth of the Waikanae River is a national treasure, a natural environment for birds and for us.
As I pointed out in a previous article, (See June 2) this area was made a Scientific Reserve in 1987, with the adjoint Marine Reserve following in 1992.
That is not widely known, and not well signposted. Since a first step in protection is to understand what we are talking about, the map included with that article is repeated here.
But it is regularly trashed by vehicles driving across the sandspit.
According to a Department of Conservation (DoC) spokesman, vehicles are breaching council bylaws by travelling along the beach into the Scientific Reserve. Under the Coastal Policy Statement and the Scientific Reserves bylaw, that is illegal. It can damage shellfish beds, endanger wildlife such as nesting birds and, of course, people.
Theory and cold hard reality
In theory, the Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC) bans vehicles on the beach.
In reality, KCDC issues permits for people to drive and park for whitebaiting. These explicitly forbid driving across the sandspit through the Scientific Reserve to the river edge.
This is absurd. In practice people drive to where they whitebait, across the sandspit through the Scientific Reserve to the river edge.
DoC have a similar policy of ignoring their own regulations, and give permission to some people to whitebait in the reserve
Those actions must be reversed, and this iconic ecological system must be properly protected.
Some claim that first the public must be educated, that it takes time to accept a reserve. This assumes that after 30 years the people of Waikanae have yet to understand the value of their environment, which is nonsense.
Some claim that the situation is complex and there is much to work through. This too is nonsense. The cause is obvious. The cure is obvious, and simple. It just takes simple actions by KCDC and DoC and a public awareness campaign. We must demand that they both act quickly and not let the situation drift through another whitebaiting season later this year.
Urgent action needed
Now is the time to act, as consultation and community discussion is about to start in June in the wider subject of the Beach Bylaw renewal.
What is needed is clear.
- KCDC must withdraw existing permits to drive along the beach, and not issue any in future.
- DoC must ban whitebaiting within the Reserve. Let people fish up the river, where there is easy access and no need to take vehicles across the sandspit.
- There must be a ban on horses, which can endanger nesting birds, and dogs must be kept on a leash.
- These regulations must be widely notified and policed. A ranger must be appointed to assist the public to assure that the Scientific Reserve is properly cared for.
(In a third article I will consider the only recognised group that supports the destruction of this iconic Scientific Reserve. They must be named and shamed, to speak publicly of their beliefs – to put up or shut up.)