Protection for Clutha coast urged

Taieri Beach conservationist Gail Oats wants unspoilt coastal environments in Clutha and beyond...
Taieri Beach conservationist Gail Oats wants unspoilt coastal environments in Clutha and beyond afforded better protection by local authorities. PHOTOS: RICHARD DAVISON & GAIL OATS
Pressure is growing for Clutha District Council to introduce greater protections for its coastal areas.

During a public forum preceding the council’s committee meetings on Thursday, Taieri Beach resident Gail Oats appealed to the council to consider introducing new bylaws offering greater protection for the district’s beaches, dunes and resident wildlife.

The latest call comes following Sea Society founder Sian Mair’s appeal to the council in July to ban vehicles from key Catlins beaches.

Mrs Oats said she had been shocked recently to see harassment of marine mammals - such as the endangered New Zealand sea lion - by dogs near her home, and was also concerned that vehicles could access and drive on the district’s beaches.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times at her home yesterday, she said stepping up conservation efforts for the Clutha coast - and across New Zealand more generally - was essential if future generations were to enjoy them.

"I’ve lived here since 2006, and done a lot of work to return the land to its native state.

"But the coastal environment is coming under increasing pressure from damaging forms of recreation and, unless we take steps collectively now - supported and enforceable by appropriate bylaws - we’re at risk of losing what we have forever."

New Zealand sea lions on the beach neighbouring Mrs Oats’ land at Taieri Beach.
New Zealand sea lions on the beach neighbouring Mrs Oats’ land at Taieri Beach.
Mrs Oats said she was not against recreational fishing, or other forms of "low impact" coastal activities.

"When you work with nature, it’ll work with you, and that can be to everyone’s advantage."

She said the council had an opportunity to take the lead, and be a champion of its natural resources to generate increased tourist activity.

"Let people know what we have here and that we’re active guardians of it. Working with nature can be economically viable, rather than costly."

CDC chief executive Steve Hill said the council agreed with many of Mrs Oats’ points, and would look at developing an appropriate bylaw.

He said some regulations already existed, for example around dog control on beaches, but perhaps could be more broadly enforced.

Clutha mayor Bryan Cadogan said he, too, had sympathy with Mrs Oats’ concerns.

"In this day and age it is disappointing that a small minority still lack environmental awareness.

"We’ve moved beyond motorbikes and dogs on the beach harassing the few remaining seals and sea lions.

"This is one of the key features our district can boast of, and it’s about time we became more aligned to their needs."

Mrs Oats said she had been heartened by the council’s initial response.

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