Kiteboarders threat to godwit sanctuary
Kiteboarders have invaded the Ruakaka Wildlife Reserve, causing havoc among the birds as they prepare for their annual 11,000km migration.
Join the discussion below, or Read more at The New Zealand Herald.
Sandton, South Africa
#1 Mar 16, 2009
I am sure the guys who have been asked to leave and won't move on have very good reasons for thinking that they are not doing the birds any harm, it's likely that they aren't and this is just an overblown story stirred up by overexcited conservationists, but the probelm is that bad press like this damages the reputation of all kiteboarders world wide, it makes us all look like we don't care about the environment rather than showing that we embrace our natural surroundings. These guys should just find another spot to kite during the nesting season.
#2 Mar 16, 2009
Even though it is a young sport Kiteboarders have been living and riding in the Ruakaka area since 2000. Over this time the number of riders has grown, but still is relatively small with 10 local riders and a similar number based in Whangarei that drive out when conditions are right.
Kiteboarding has a very low environmental impact; it uses very little equipment, doesn’t burn fuel and makes no noise. Many of us choose this sport over the likes of wakeboarding or jet skiing for just these reasons.
Ruakaka river mouth is a very special riding environment for kiteboarders, with the enclosed water way giving smooth water, the outer bar giving us clean waves all the while being open to the strong winds we enjoy.
However to Kiteboard at Ruakaka River mouth we require both a high tide and a moderate to strong Easterly wind. In any given year the total number days Mother Nature gives us with just these right conditions are around 25. On these 25 days we will average 3 hours of ridable time before the tide drops. Given an average of 12 hours of daylight per day, 365 days in the year, kiteboarders can use this location less than 2% of the time. For the other 98% of the year we simply go to beaches better suited to other wind directions. Usually the numbers of riders out at Ruakaka on any given E wind is 4-5, on weekends this sometimes rises to 10-12 but this is rare rather than the rule.
As a group Ruakaka kiteboarders are well aware of the importance of the Ruakaka estuary as a wildlife refuge, to this end we have put in place a set of guidelines since 2005 to protect this area, these include:
- Stay off the sand dunes.
- Rig up and land kites as close to the waters edge as possible.
- Do not fly kites over the dunes or wildlife.
- Keep your kite at 45degrees out to sea when walking up the beach.
- Stay a safe distance from other beach users.
The locals also take a high level of responsibility to educate riders from other places who wish to use this area, along with educating other beach users of the care that should be taken.
Despite all of this we have been targeted and tagged by a tiny group of local environmentalists as a hazardous and destructive activity. In the last three years kiteboarders using Ruakaka river mouth have had to endure being yelled at, subjected to verbal abuse, threatened with weapons (including scissors and fence posts), had equipment interfered with, had our way impeded, photos taken, videos taken, and most recently a young American traveller was assaulted on the beach by one of the woman opposed to us using this area.
This same area is also used by many thousands of people throughout the year Fisherman, Swimmers, Kayakers, etc. The river mouth lies between the largest campground in Ruakaka and the only surf club – over the summer on ANY day many hundreds of people walk between the camp and the surf club via the dunes or foreshore of the south side of the River Mouth.
The kiteboarders of Ruakaka are working with the Department of Conservation to investigate and try and quantify any impact we may have on the wildlife in this area. As kiteboarders we believe any impact we have is certainly lower than many of the other activities and pressures, and is manageable within the guidelines we already have in place.
We believe we are being unfairly harassed simply because those opposed to kiteboarding do not have an understanding of how kites work, consider us ‘young’, our kites are visible from a distance and we are a small group who are easy to target.
All we ask for is some perspective on all the issues at Ruakaka River Mouth and where kiteboarding fits into that mix.
Rotorua, New Zealand
#3 Jul 27, 2009
Very well written, Dave. As you know the the spit at south shore and the christchurh estuary is is a well known spot for godwits, and up to 3000 other birds on any givin day. Kitesurfing at the christchurch estuary can have anywhere up to 30-40 riders on the water at any given time. over the last 9 years we seem to have made no impact on affecting the bird life there. Probably the most interferance on the bird populations are your general people walking there dogs or walking to close to the birds trying to get a better view.
We share the chch estuary with at least 15 spieces of birds ranging from black swans . A few of these spieces are now having to be culled every summer due to there thriving
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