"People driving vehicles through the clearly marked and signposted breeding area of tūturiwhatu/Northern New Zealand dotterel at Thornton Beach in the Eastern Bay of Plenty are damaging the species," says Department of Conservation.
DOC Supervisor Marc Camburn says tūturiwhatu nest on beaches, and historically would have a much larger safe area for breeding.
“We’ve fenced off these small areas to give them a chance, away from some of the impacts of humans,” Camburn says. “To have that ignored is distressing."
“With so many places available for people to access and enjoy beaches, we’re urging people to give these birds a break.”
According to DOC, classified as ‘at risk – recovering’, tūturiwhatu are found only in Aotearoa New Zealand. DOC clearly marks their breeding areas as their nesting behaviours make them difficult to see, and driving through poses serious risk.
“They’re what we call a ‘cryptic’ species, which means they’re pretty difficult to spot,” Camburn says. “So even though it may look empty, there’s a reason for the signs."
“We know there were tūturiwhatu nesting in this particular location, and we counted three chicks late last year. Unfortunately, only one of the chicks appears to still be alive.
“With less than 3000 individuals, every chick matters.”
Whakatāne District Council Manager Open Spaces, Ian Molony, says Council’s Beaches Bylaw 2018 does not permit any vehicle on any beach in the district, unless using authorised accessways and solely for the purpose of launching or retrieving any vessel. In addition, quad bikes are permitted in certain areas for the purposes of recreational fishing only. “The bylaw aims to create a balance between recreational activities and the need to protect fragile shorebird habitats," Molony says. “While quad bikes are permitted in some areas, they must not enter dotterel breeding sites, which are clearly signposted.”
DOC state. Tūturuwhatu are absolutely protected under the Wildlife Act 1953. Anyone who disturbs dotterels and/or their nests can be convicted with penalties ranging from fines up to $100,000 and/or up to two years imprisonment.
DOC ask anyone who observe vehicles in protected nesting areas, to report the incident to Council on 07 306 0500 or to DOC on 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). If sufficient evidence is available, charges will be laid against the individuals responsible.
Image: Department of Conservation
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