Vehicles are being blamed for the destruction of a pristine Marlborough beach by residents who want to see tighter controls.
The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake uplifted land around the Cape Campbell peninsula and the beach became a popular destination for four-wheel drive vehicles.
But Cape Campbell Experience manager Thomas Peter says the hike in numbers is putting the area at risk.
He says while people have been driving along the beach for years, since the earthquake it’s gone from “casual usage” to upwards of 50 vehicles on a busy day.
“With the Kaikoura quake, the area has had a real spotlight on it,” Thomas says.
The cape, well known for its lighthouse that guided ships around the dangerous reefs since 1870, is the native habitat for several native species including the banded dotterel.
“Being a peninsula, it’s a nesting site for quite a few birds and it has a seal colony on it,” Thomas says.
“You can see the tyre tracks going right through the middle of where the seals are.
“I know down the Kaikoura coast if a vehicle is within 20 metres, it must be stationary with seals.”
Thomas says to protect the area; the answer is to look nationally – to other councils around New Zealand.
“They’ve effectively put a lot of bans and controls over timing and allowances of vehicles and speeds,” he says.
“Look to Wellington, they’ve put bans over huge proportions of the beach now.
“Auckland, even 90-mile beach now, I understand you can’t drive on it like you once could.
But Marlborough 4WD Club captain Tony Ashworth says no area should be closed off to Kiwis.
“The locals are trying to get everything banned down there,” Tony says.
He says the beach has always been driveable and claims landowners have only started complaining about access since they haven’t been able to charge.
“We do everything with a tread lightly mindset. You can use the area without destroying things.
“I know there are people that go out on their own, but we don’t condone that.”
The club has organised an annual Cape Campbell 4WD trip for about 27 years, Tony says.
“The older members of the club always talk about it.”
A community group formed to protect and enhance biodiversity of the area wants to work with the community to find a solution.
Marlborough East Coast Protection Group secretary Heather Davies says they are working closely with DOC and MDC to educate the public.
Information signs and temporary fencing to protect particularly sensitive areas are in place.
“People are going further along and disturbing native birds and the formation of dunes,” Heather says.
She wants the region’s residents to share a sense of responsibility.
“That what they are doing, they have an impact. That people understand that these are Marlborough’s unique species.
“Those animals live there,” she says.
A council spokeswoman says the council is aware of the broad nature of ecological, economic, and social values that are central to the community that require a balanced approach to management.