Three separate agencies, and the Police, have given warning they’ll enforce laws banning vehicles from the Waikanae Estuary, which includes the Waikanae Scientific Reserve.
The Kāpiti Coast District Council’s Environmental Standards Manager, Jacquie Muir, says there’s been confusion in the community about where cars can and can’t drive on the beach, particularly with the whitebaiting season that opened last week.
She says Territorial authorities, the Regional Council, the Department of Conservation (DOC), and the Police all have important roles to play when taking care of the Kāpiti Coast’s beaches.
A range of rules exist to keep people safe while they’re walking on the beach and to protect important coastal ecology.
Ms Muir would like to clarify that Council hasn’t stopped issuing permits to whitebaiters along the Kāpiti Coast.
“We are, however, being more transparent around other rules that now exist through the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC)’s Proposed Natural Resource Plan.
“We’re asking whitebaiters to refer to that plan and contact GWRC about vehicle restrictions on the beach.
“We’ve recently put up more signs to help educate the community about the rules, and we’ve installed bollards to prevent vehicles from coming into the estuary through the Tutere Street carpark. We know this will impact people differently, but it’s important to protect public safety and our delicate coastal ecology.”
Greater Wellington Regional Council Team Leader, Policy Development, Miranda Cross says, “We’re very appreciative of the great work the Kāpiti Coast District Council has been doing in helping us to help protect the values the community has told us are important to them.
It’s to protect those values that under the Proposed Natural Resources Plan private vehicles are banned from being driven on the estuary, a rule that applies to everyone.”
“In fact, we imposed it in 2015 to ensure we could protect cultural sights, wildlife habitat and natural features, all of which the community supported. We’ve refocused on it now because the formal hearing process for the Plan is coming to the end.”
Ms Muir says, “Different organisations have control over different parts of the beach. Under the Resource Management Act, GWRC is the regulatory authority for our local beaches. “
“Through the Local Government Act, the Kāpiti Coast District Council has a bylaw which controls vehicle use on beaches.
“The bylaw allows Police to issue infringements under the Land Transport Act to those breaking the rules. Through the Reserve Act 1977, the Department of Conservation is responsible for the Waikanae Scientific Reserve.”
“Ultimately all agencies have a role to play to protect our community and sensitive sites.”
Department of Conservation Operations Manager Kāpiti Wellington District Jack Mace says that the Waikanae Scientific Reserve is a unique place that needs to be protected.
“The Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve is a special place. Vehicles on the beach can damage shellfish beds, endanger wildlife such as nesting birds and, of course people. Under the Scientific Reserves bylaw, it’s always been illegal for vehicles to drive on the beach within the reserve. Attempting to enforce this in the past has been difficult and has led to physical threats to our rangers.”
“DOC has worked alongside the Councils to strengthen its stance on vehicles driving on the beach and accessing the reserve where they’re not permitted.
“We understand that during whitebait season this might be unpopular with some people, however the wider community has made it clear that they expect us to protect the reserve.
“Our rangers will continue to work with the Council officers and New Zealand Police to enforce the rules and prevent unauthorised vehicles damaging this fragile environment.”
Ms Muir says further discussion with the community about these issues will be the focus of the upcoming Beach Bylaw review.
“We look forward to the review of our Beach Bylaw, with community engagement set to begin early 2019. We encourage anyone with thoughts on the bylaw to have their say.”