DOC on Waikanae Estuary Problems

Waikanae Sandspit and DOC Scientific Reserve (Credit: David Wall)

DOC: We’re trying to stop cars crossing into Reserve from Waikanae beach 

DOC has replied to KIN’s questions about the lack of action to stop vehicles illegally crossing its  Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve (see our story on Feb 26, ‘Waikanae Beach Problems Continue’).

DOC’s Kapiti and Wellington Operations Manager, Jack Mace, says:  “The Department of Conservation is working with Kapiti Coast District Council to address the complex issue of vehicles illegally accessing the Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve.

“Unfortunately, the beach access points – at the Waikanae and Kapiti Boating clubs, and other road ends, are outside the reserve and therefore outside the Department’s control.”

He says 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.

Rangers not able to patrol actively

Our rangers don’t have the capacity to actively patrol the beach for vehicles straying into the Scientific Reserve.

Waikanae Beach, just north of the Reserve

Rangers working in the area on whitebait patrol or restoration jobs keep an eye out for unauthorised vehicles. This can be as often as daily during August to November.

There is currently a bill before Parliament which will allow DOC rangers to issue fines on the spot rather than go through the lengthy prosecution process for minor offences such as this.

DOC working with Police and KCDC

We will continue to support KCDC and NZ Police to find a workable solution.

Mr Stace also points out that access to the land side of the Scientific Reserve via residential streets is not an issue.

He says:”It is in very low numbers, usually for permitted whitebaiting activity. We know who the people are and they have DOC’s express permission.”

That first sentence is unclear. Everybody driving across the sandspit will come and then leave, and the complaint is of whitebaiters who drive across the river area in cars. So I can only assume that such driving is OK to Graeme Trask.

The reason that he gives to allow that damage to the precious natural environment, that whitebaiting has been around for years, does not hold water. If some activity is just plain wrong, or has become damaging due to the increase in numbers of people, then it should be stopped. Thus the introduction of a Marine Reserve, and previous fishing there must stop. Thus the banning of driving along that stretch of beach and setting up a Scientific Reserve, so driving is no longer permitted.

Those who drive across the sandspit, whether whitebaiting or hooning around, do NOT respect wildlife, nor the rights of others to an environment free of cars and their tracks across the windswept sand. And the call to report incidents is empty. Last year there were 66 recorded complaints and no action. There is a very real need to campaign that the existing ban be effective, and policed.

Interesting to hear from DoC. I tried to contact them – email but no reply, repeat email again no reply, phone call to Kapiti/Wellington office but number out of service, phone call to DoC Head Office and put through to answer phone so left a message, phone call from Wanganui (if I remember right) and put through to answer phone so left a message, phone call while I was out, I phoned back but he had gone out so I left a message – no response.

There is a great contradiction at the heart of this DoC comment. They say they want to stop cars crossing into the Reserve from the Waikanae beach But then they give DOC’s express permission for whitebaiting activity. If you really want to protect this viable and valuable environment you would quite simply keep people off. Anyway with nobody checking or policing anybody can drive across, and lots do.

If I have the ear of DoC, maybe they can answer some simple questions. Why do they give permission? Do they give permission to anyone who asks? If not, what criteria are applied?

Yours with anger and frustration, John Robinson

John Robinson, whitebaiting has been around for years. Whitebaiters come to the river do their fishing and leave, its the other, the minority that come along to the river area in cars and on motobikes that give the rest of us a bad name. Most whitebaiters are aware of the fact that they are sharing the beach/river area with wildlife and respect accordingly so there is no need to lobby/campaign for a ban on vehicles using the beach. It is up to us (general public) to report incidents to the police or kcdc and eliminate those that are causing the problems. The same applies to some beach areas as well, especially where signage clearly states that only vehicles that are launching boats or the disabled are allowed access to the beach by car. Its the minority that have brought these rules upon us in the first case.