Plan to ban dogs at Canterbury estuary expected to be 'controversial'

An endangered wrybill being chased by an off-lead dog at Waikuku Beach. Photo: Supplied by Ashley...
An endangered wrybill being chased by an off-lead dog at Waikuku Beach. Photo: Supplied by Ashley-Rakahuri Rivercare Group
Dogs will be banned from the Ashley Rakahuri River estuary in Canterbury if a new bylaw gets approved.

The Waimakariri District Council is consulting on a new Northern Pegasus Bay Bylaw, which governs what activities are allowed on the district’s beaches.

Councillor Al Blackie said the biggest change was extending the area where dogs were prohibited to include the entire spit and the Ashley Rakahuri River and Saltwater Creek estuary.

‘‘I am expecting it to be controversial, but we will see how it goes.’’

The new rules will remove an exemption, which had allowed holders of Fish and Game hunting licenses to take their dogs into the estuary area during gamebird hunting season.

The measures are designed to protect ecological values and bird habitats around the estuary and wetlands.

The estuary is home to threatened bird species including wrybills, black-bill gulls, banded dotterels, black-fronted terns and pied oystercatchers, some of which are also endangered.

But Fish and Game North Canterbury game bird specialist Matt Garrick was not impressed with the proposed ban.

He said he corresponded with the council a year ago, but had not had any further contact.

"I explained that duck season does not overlap during critical, sensitive periods, such as nesting, so there would be no conflict with dogs used for game bird hunting."

He said he requested data to demonstrate game bird hunting and dogs in the winter were having an effect on the estuary's bird life in the estuary, but had heard nothing further.

A map showing the area which is governed by the Waimakariri District Council’s Northern Pegasus...
A map showing the area which is governed by the Waimakariri District Council’s Northern Pegasus Bay Bylaw. The Ashley Rakahuri River and Saltwater Creek estuary is to the north. Image: Supplied by Waimakariri District Council
Cr Blackie said people will still be able to walk their dogs on other beaches on the Waimakariri district’s coastline.

‘‘We have got 7-8km of beach to exercise on, so there is plenty of room. Just stay away from the estuary.’’

Another change would extend the ban for aircraft, including drones, taking off and landing off within the estuary area and nearby beach.

‘When you have the drones flying low, the birds think it is an eagle so it disturbs them,’’ Cr Blackie said.

Fires and fireworks are also banned in the estuary area, but cultural cooking fires and braziers are allowed.

The bylaw also has rules around access for horses and vehicles to the beach areas.

‘‘We are never going to get it right or please everybody, so it is a compromise,’’ Cr Blackie said.

‘‘But it is a hell of a lot better than it was six years ago.

‘‘The public is getting better educated and the awareness of the bylaw is much better now.’’

The changes have been made following a bylaw review and a beach users survey held over the summer.

The review received 48 submissions, while there were 380 responses to a survey.

The original Northern Pegasus Bay Bylaw became operational in 2010 and was updated in 2016.

It is reviewed every five years and was due to be reviewed in 2021 but was delayed due to Covid.

A temporary bylaw has been in place for the last 12 months.

Submissions close on June 14. Public drop-in sessions have been held this week, with further sessions at the Pines Beach Community Hall on June 5, 5.30pm to 6.30pm, and at the Waiora Links Community Cuppa at the Pegasus Community Centre on June 12, from 10am.

Fish and Game North Canterbury has been contacted for comment.

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporter

■ LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.