To: Lou Sanson, Director-General Department of Conservation
Date: 18 March 2019
At the Authority’s meeting in February 2019, members discussed issues of unacceptable visitor behaviour towards New Zealand wildlife. Authority members have personally witnessed this behaviour and so I am writing to advise you that further action from DOC is required.
The Authority sees the relatively new role for rangers, of compliance, on-site interpretation and storytelling, as a key opportunity within this context to do more in the way of biodiversity protection. As discussed with you at prior meetings, by inspiring the public to get behind the mahi of these rangers you will rapidly increase the understanding of its importance between visitors, and this is vital for encouraging better behaviour towards wildlife as well.
While the Authority acknowledges there have been an increased number of rangers out in the field over the 2018-19 summer period, and the DOC summer behaviour campaign “Visit the Kiwi way” will have contributed to visitor awareness, we believe there is still more that can be done to further promote correct behaviour. Subject to engagement with and support from Māori land owners who are kaitiaki, an example of this could be increased and more strongly worded signage in spots which are particularly vulnerable to visitors overstepping their rights, such as at Wharariki Beach and Ohau Point where breeding seals are commonly found. Visitors may be more likely to take these messages seriously if they understand how non-compliance is detrimental for wildlife and can lead to personal fines.
As there are increasing visitor numbers and apparent deficiencies within regulations around the disturbance of wildlife, the Authority will continue to monitor this issue. To that end, the Authority would like to see DOC's reporting on how effective the new role for rangers and the summer behaviour campaign has been over the 2018-19 summer. Additionally, it would be beneficial to see how the reporting data is being applied at place for future use, as well as a national picture showing the significance of how extra funding can further address this issue.
E noho ora mai
Edward Ellison ONZM