Introduction

DOC is aware of the kite-boarding activity at Ruakaka Wildlife Refuge and is concerned about the impact on wildlife. DOC has been working toward solutions for the last two years.

Date:  17 February 2009

  • The Department of Conservation (DOC) is aware of the kite-boarding activity at Ruakaka Wildlife Refuge and is concerned about the impact on wildlife. DOC has been working toward solutions for the last two years.
  • DOC understands that kite-boarding in the refuge is viewed by local bird protection volunteers as a threat to wildlife and that they have called for a total ban on kite-boarding at Ruakaka Wildlife Refuge.
  • DOC is not disputing that kite-boarding may pose a risk to wildlife in the refuge, however, the evidence we have currently is not sufficient enough to allow the Department to prohibit the activity and more work is required.
  • Bird protection groups have also called for the prosecution of kite-boarders however there is no provision under any current legislation or local authority regulation that prohibits kite boarding in Ruakaka Wildlife Refuge.
  • The Wildlife Act 1953 Section 14(3) states that it is an offence “to do anything likely to cause any wildlife to leave the wildlife refuge.” This is the only enforceable provision under the Act and solid evidence of kite-boarders causing birds to leave the refuge is required in order for the Department to act.
  • Enforcement is problematic as kite-boarding is not the only activity that causes disturbance in the refuge. The same offence clause can also be applied to walkers, swimmers, recreational boat users, jet skiers, windsurfers, horse riders and fishermen.
  • Ruakaka estuary is a public open space and the public have a right to access the area for recreational purposes, which is guaranteed to them under Section 7 of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, though this does not limit the provisions of Wildlife Act 1953.
  • Local kite-boarders believe they have already minimised levels of disturbance to birds in the refuge by working to a voluntary code of practice, and they wish to continue using the area for kite-boarding when conditions are favourable.
  • Note: This issue is not restricted to Ruakaka alone but kite-boarding occurs in other areas where wildlife values are even more significant such as, Waipu Wildlife Refuge, Managwhai Wildlife Reserve and Whangarei Harbour Wildlife Refuge.
  • In 2008, DOC engaged a contractor to make observations, take photographs and collect video footage of kite-boarding at Ruakaka and Waipu Wildlife Refuges to look for evidence of disturbance to wildlife.
  • DOC has researched literature on the subject and collected information relating to kite-boarding and bird disturbance from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
  • DOC has held meetings in the last year with community based shorebird volunteers and has listened to their concerns relating to the disturbance of wildlife by kite-boarders.
  • DOC has also held meetings with the local kite-boarding enthusiasts at Ruakaka in an attempt to understand their activity and to highlight the values of the refuge and the risks to wildlife.
  • The local kite-boarding group has provided DOC with information and maps relating to their activities at Ruakaka and the optimum conditions for their activity as well as a code of practice they adhere to prevent disturbance to birds.
  • DOC has established a roster for Rangers to patrol Conservation Land at Bream Bay on weekends, which includes making observations of any activity occurring at Ruakaka Wildlife Refuge e.g. kite-boarding.
  • DOC will continue the process of gathering more information to determine the level of impact the kite-boarding is having on wildlife at Ruakaka so that the best course of action can be determined.
  • DOC has asked local shorebird protection groups to provide any data/information they have that would assist us in this process.
  • Local kite boarders have agreed to cooperate with the Department and with local shorebird protection groups to assist in gathering information and to communicate the values of the refuge to other kite-boarders from outside the area.
  • The Department’s first preference is to work with the community to find solutions/alternatives to this problem, rather than attempt to prosecute members of the public without having sufficient evidence to do so.
  • Law enforcement and establishing prohibitions will always be an option especially if the data collected confirms that kite-boarding is having a significant impact on wildlife in the refuge.

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