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The country’s favourite concretions are getting some unwanted new features, Moeraki residents say.
A six-month upsurge in people carving names and words into boulders and leaving behind their rubbish has prompted calls for better management of the increasingly popular site.
Lesley Campbell, who has lived in the coastal settlement for 30 years, said the problem was not new, but seemed to have increased in the past six months.
On a recent trip to the beach, she noticed almost every boulder had been defaced, and she was able to intercept a group who were about to carve into one of the softer boulders near the cliffs.
‘‘I think it’s really disrespectful to the boulders, it’s disrespectful to the people who live in the area, and it’s disrespectful for people who come to visit,’’ she said.
Though the sea had since washed some of the damage away on the softer rocks, Ms Campbell said she would expect better for a site advertised as the district’s ‘‘flagship tourist destination’’.
The problem was also noticed by a recent visitor to Moeraki, Lauren Flutey, who said people seemed to be homing in on the soft, freshly exposed boulders.
As well as the vandalism there appeared to be rubbish and cigarette butts being dropped ‘‘left, right, and centre’’ around the boulders, she said.
The boulders are on Department of Conservation (Doc) land and better signage was something it was happy to consider, by working with Te Runanga o Moeraki. Coastal Otago operations manager Mike Hopkins said the behaviour was disappointing, disrespectful, and illegal, so Doc wanted to take a proactive approach.
Waitaki District Council chief executive Fergus Power said he had also been made aware of the vandalism.
He said the council would be working with Doc to increase awareness and help deter the taggers, including promoting the penalties of imprisonment up to five years, or a $100,000 fine.
Numbers of tourists visiting the site were likely to rise now it could be part of the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark. Trustee Helen Jansen said signs were being developed to better tell the story of Waitaki’s tourist sites and if the area pursued geopark status, it needed to show it could protect its resources.
■Report vandalism to 0800 DOC HOT.
-By Katie Todd