Waikanae Beach Problems Continue

Vehicles damaging the sand spit

By John Robinson

Waikanae Beach

Vehicles drive over the Waikanae Beach and the sand spit at the mouth of the Waikanae River.  Some are hooning around and some are used to take whitebaiting equipment to the river.

There is extensive damage along the beach, and across the sandspit, where birds are known to nest.

Driving vehicles is forbidden along the beach south of the boat ramp to the mouth of the Waikanae River.

But the Kapiti Coast District council gives permits to drive in that prohibited area to “any member of the public to operate a vehicle on the beach for the purposes of gaining access for whitebaiting”. 

 Contradictions in providing permits

KCDC: sending mixed messages

A written reply from KCDC says that 16 permits were given in 2017 “allowing vehicles to traverse the section of Waikanae Beach between the Waikanae Boat Club and the point where the Waikanae River flows into the sea”.

Whitebaiting takes place only along the river edge of the sandspit.  That is where the whitebaiters go, across the sandspit.

A second written reply from KCDC says that the sandspit is in a Scientific Reserve and the permits do not allow access to the sandspit.

This is stated on the permit, which states that the authorisation to drive on the beach is limited: “but not on any part of the Waikanae Estuary forming the Department of Conservation Scientific Reserve”.

There is a complete contradiction here.  KCDC cannot give permits for whitebaiters to drive across the sandspit.  But they do, and I had gained the clear impression from KCDC public statements that those people making a mess of the sandspit and endangering birds are doing so legally.  They are not.

Special rights?

The inaction sends a clear message.  The law is not policed.  Neither the KCDC nor the Department of Conservation show any intention to protect this valuable environment.

Waikanae Sand spit (Credit: David Wall)

Why?  Something smells funny.  The mayor has written in the Kapiti Independent News “In 2014 DoC officers attempting to enforce the Bylaw at the beach during whitebaiting season faced serious objections including from local iwi members.”

He also has called these iwi members “kaitiaki”: guardians of the environment.  Is this the reason why the authorities stand back?  Is driving all over a valuable sand spit “customary use”?

I hope my suspicions of special rights to some can be answered – one way or the other – and the whole community join in protecting the beach and sandspit for the use of all, and the well being of the many birds found there.

KCDC should set up a round table discussion so any such issues can be clarified and settled by all of us.

KCDC can also get DoC along to talk with us.  My own efforts to contact them have failed completely: two emails and some round-in-circles phone calls, and I gave up.

(I will be speaking in the Public Participation segment of the next Council meeting, which is from 9.25 am on Thursday March 1, concerning vehicles driving across the sand spit at the mouth of the Waikanae River.  Perhaps other concerned people can come along for support.)