KCDC calls for police action to stop lawbreakers on Waikanae Estuary
By Alan Tristram
Kapiti Mayor K Gurunathan (Guru) says he’s disturbed by reports about vehicles intruding into the environmentally sensitive Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve. And he wants the Police to take action.
He says he speaks as ‘the initiator and founding member of the Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve Care group.’
Answering queries from KIN, the Mayor says the cost of installing electronic gates must be shared by KCDC, DoC and the Police. This is because of the overlapping legal responsibilities.
He says electronic gates to control vehicle access to the beach at Kapiti Boating Club and Waikanae Boating Club could be the only way to manage illegal drivers who continue to endanger public safety and cause environmental damage. But ratepayers should not pay its full cost. Overlapping legal responsibilities between DoC, Council and the Police point to the practical solution of shared costs.
He says: “I urge concerned members of the public to call the police directly if they see any reckless drivers as calls end up being redirected to the police anyway.”
Beach patrols increased
“While council has increased its beach patrols this summer, we are still getting public complaints about errant drivers endangering beach users and damaging dunes. Complainants seem to think Council bears the sole responsibility for enforcement. Complaints were also focussed on vehicles entering the environmentally sensitive Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve.“
The Council is caught between ‘an ass and the deep blue sea,’ he says.
“A number of the complainants have been very critical of Council for not enforcing the laws. What they need to realise is that the law is an ass.
“Firstly, it’s true that council is the controlling authority over the beach.
“There is a Beach Bylaw but when it comes to vehicles, which are moving, Council has no legal powers of enforcement. Only the police have the enforcement power to stop such vehicles and issue an infringement notice. Ironically, the Bylaw does not include any other offences for which fines can be imposed. So council officers cannot fine drivers of vehicles parked on the beach. That’s a dumb situation to be in!”
Bylaw changes needed
The Mayor adds: “So yes, the Bylaw needs to be amended and an opportunity will arise later this year when this Bylaw is up for review through a public consultation process. But the power to enforce, I understand, will still remain with the police.
“While our local police have worked well with Council they are constrained by their own lack of resources, manpower and priorities. Direct public pressure may convince regional police managers on resource allocation.
“Council does issue beach permits for vehicles on the beach. Permits can be issued for disabled access, contractors working on projects like seawalls, and for whitebaiters during whitebaiting seasons.”
Other problems with the Reserve
Mayor Gurunathan says the ecologically-sensitive Waikanae Estuary presents other problems. Here, he says, the controlling authority is DoC which also has enforcement powers under the Reserves Act.
The whitebaiting permits issued by Council only allow for drivers to drive to the boundary of Estuary. They need to walk with their gear through the Reserve to their fishing spots.
The Reserve Bylaw allows whitebaiting but states: “No person unless authorised by the Regional Conservator may drive or ride any vehicle (whether propelled by mechanical power or not and including bicycles) within the Reserve”.
Frequent requests to drive onto Reserve
The Mayor says: “DoC is regularly approached by older people in the Waikanae community, both Pakeha and Maori, requesting vehicle access into the Reserve, through Hana Udy Place, to drop off and pick up their gear.
“In 2014 DoC officers attempting to enforce the Bylaw at the beach during whitebaiting season faced serious objections including from local iwi members.
“DoC has a key system for access through the padlocked gates for such access with a set of conditions including age, legitimate disabilities, history of whitebaiting and a commitment to complying with whitebaiting regulations. My understanding is that DoC worked with iwi for them to manage customary access within the same framework.
“I have alerted local iwi about the recent spate of complaints and public interest on the protection of the Reserve. I’m confident, given the strong iwi commitment as kaitiaki of the environment they will continue to partner with council, DoC and the police to protect these values.”
The Mayor adds that Council continues to work with DoC both to ensure anyone approaching KCDC for beach access is informed of the procedure, and to help DoC monitor behaviour on the Reserve.
He says: “I look forward to the public directly contacting the police to report errant behaviour and to their participation in the proposed beach bylaw review, later this year.”