Open letter to KCDC Mayor and Councillors

I oppose inaction, and apparent permission, concerning vehicles driving across the sandspit at the Waikanae River estuary, which is a Scientific Reserve and thus legally out of bounds to them.

I want you to do something about it.
Vehicles regularly drive across the sandspit at the mouth of the Waikanae River, at all times of the year. The number of such vehicles is particularly large during the whitebaiting season.

This damages the natural environment with tracks that persist. It is a nuisance to walkers.

Most importantly that damage and nuisance destroys this highly valuable place for birds, which gather and nest there. This sandspit is a national treasure, which we should all cherish and protect.

There have been many complaints. I myself wrote to both the Kapiti News and the Kapiti Observer concerning reports of New Zealand dotterels nesting at the Waikanae estuary, to refute the claim that the estuary sandspit between the river and the sea is not in an area reached by vehicles – since I have observed so many such vehicles on so many times.

Neither letter was published.

I made contact with online magazines Waikanae Watch and the Kapiti Independent News, both of which have covered the story.

Geoffrey and Eva Churchman of Waikanae Watch wrote asking the Kapiti Coast District Council for information. The reply did not provide any real information. So I wrote with further questions. Based on all the information to hand, I noted that KCDC give beach permits for vehicles to drive across the sandspit at the mouth of the Waikanae River for whitebaiting and fishing.

The second set of information does give answers, which I find astonishing, given the evident public perception, the previous published response of council, and the first set of information.

Permits include: “… is hereby authorised to drive a vehicle on the Paraparaumu and Waikanae Beaches, as far as the WAIKANAE RIVER MOUTH (but not on any part of the Waikanae Estuary forming the Department of Conservation Scientific Reserve) for the purpose of whitebaiting.”

The written reply emphasised this point.

Firstly, I would like to clarify that the Council does not issue permits allowing people to operate a vehicle on the beach, or to undertake fishing and whitebaiting activities, within the boundaries of the marine estuary. This is a scientific reserve and falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation.

The beach boundaries of the reserve are identified on the Paraparaumu and Waikanae Beach sides by large yellow triangles in the dunes. The estuary includes the sandspit and the Waikanae River mouth (please refer to the attached map).

THUS: Vehicles are never permitted on the sandspit. In addition whitebaiting is not permitted on the sandspit.

Contrary to the previous understanding, which I have shared with many others including some Council staff, KCDC has no authority to issue permits for vehicles to drive there, and indeed KCDC permits exclude the sandspit.

KCDC must act immediately to clarify the situation, by a clear public statement, and to protect the scientific reserve, by actively policing the area to stop any vehicles from driving across the sandspit.

That is a responsibility of Council. It is also a responsibility of the Department of
Conservation. KCDC must contact DoC to coordinate their actions, and we must soon see officers from both authorities patrolling this area.

The prohibition includes fishing and whitebaiting. The public must be made aware of this, and such activities must also be prevented by regular patrols.

I have requested time in the Public Forum (9.25 am-9.55 am) at the next council meeting, on 1 March.

Dr John Robinson
90 Belvedere Avenue
Waikanae 5036
Tel (04) 9345936