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The move would see coastal reserves next to beaches at Long Beach, Ocean View, Warrington and Karitane, and seven other locations, reclassified.
Under the Reserves Act 1977, local authorities were required to classify the primary use of the reserves they owned.
However, councillors at yesterday's community development committee meeting voted to approve the reclassification of 11 coastal reserves around the city from recreational areas to "local purpose (coastal protection)" zones.
Subject to final approval at the next full council meeting in August, the changes would become part of the council's draft Coastal Dune Reserves Management Plan, due to be released for public consultation in October.
The new plan laid out the future rules governing work to protect dunes at Dunedin beaches.
Community and recreation services manager Mick Reece said, when contacted, yesterday changes in the reserves' status recognised the importance of protecting the coastal environment from flooding, erosion and other threats.
"You can't recreate if the dunes disappear and you are inundated, so the primary driver for managing the reserves should be coastal protection," he said.
Council staff would have greater control over access to the reserves, while recreation became "a secondary use", a report by council staff said. However, recreational rights would be maintained where they were compatible with the new emphasis on protection.
The new rules could lead to more fencing and other restrictions on informal tracks cutting through dunes to beaches, with public access "funnelled" into maintained beach access, he believed.
More "one-on-one" talks between the council and private landowners could also be required, where properties had crept on to council reserves over time, he said.
"There's a whole lot of issues in some of those areas," he said.
The council's move followed concerns expressed by Ken Robertson, the 79-year-old horse trainer who last month said he had been forced to quit running horses on Ocean View beach after 56 years of daily training.
He blamed a new council fence, being built to protect coastal dunes, which blocked his informal track to the beach.
Yesterday, Mr Reece acknowledged some people would oppose the changes, arguing recreational use of the reserves was the most important use.
"You can't avoid that . . . recreation will become a secondary use, and we have to say so.
"It doesn't mean it [recreation] is not important, though," he said.
He believed there was a greater public understanding of the need to protect the reserves, which were vulnerable to 4WD vehicles, global warming, storms and erosion.
Severe erosion at some of Dunedin's beaches, which threatened nearby Kettle Park, was an example of what could result with the loss of natural coastal defences, he believed.
"You have got two choices. You are going to do something, or just wait for this kind of stuff to happen," he said.
The council's new management plan had been publicly notified in 2003, and community consultation over changes to the reserves held in affected areas in 2007 and 2008. The intention to reclassify the reserves was notified in November last year, with no public submissions received.
The public would have another opportunity to comment when consultation on the new management plan began in mid-October, Mr Reece said.
To be protected
• Kuri Beach (two areas on coastal side of Taieri Mouth Rd)
• Brighton (coastal side of Brighton Rd)
• Ocean View (coastal side of Brighton Rd)
• Island Park
• Ocean Grove (coastal side of Tomahawk)
• Te Rauone
• Long Beach
• Waikouaiti (in the vicinity of Matanaka Dr)