Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


As pressures on the Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve increase, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Waikanae Estuary Care Group (Care Group) are asking the community to help protect this local taonga (treasure).

Date:  14 December 2021

Waikanae Estuary is one of the most important estuarine environments in the lower North Island, and is a nesting and roosting ground for both resident and migratory birds, with over 60 species visiting. It adjoins the Kapiti Marine Reserve, and is part of an important ‘mountains to sea’ progression from the Tararua Range to Kapiti Island.

The Scientific Reserve was created in 1987 through the efforts of Waikanae resident Sir Charles Fleming to safeguard the estuary from increasing pressures from human activities.

Care Group Chair Robin Gunston says the Scientific Reserve’s founder could see the impact the growing community was having on the Estuary and sought to manage those by providing a refuge for biodiversity.

“The Care Group spends many thousands of hours in the Estuary protecting bird nesting areas, managing pests, and restoring eco-sourced native plants grown in our own nursery. But we increasingly need the community’s help, both to support the Care Group’s work and to reduce impacts caused by Reserve users.”

DOC Community Ranger Steve Bielby says DOC fully supports the Care Group and has reviewed how different visitor activities impact the Scientific Reserve and how they fit with the existing Reserve Bylaws.

Key areas highlighted by the review are:

  • Vehicles are frequently in bird nesting areas and elsewhere along the beach, where the boundaries of the Scientific Reserve and the Kapiti Marine Reserve meet. New signs will make it clear only foot human traffic is permitted along the beach in the Scientific Reserve.
  • The link track between Manly Street and Otaihanga isn’t built to accommodate growing numbers and speeds of cyclists, which pose an increasing safety issue. Cyclists are now asked to take the Kāpiti Coast District Council cycle path around the Scientific Reserve.
  • Horse riders are similarly asked to take bridlepaths outside the Scientific Reserve, apart from being allowed to use the beach access track through the dunes from Tutere St carpark to the public beach outside the Reserve.
  • Dogs will only be permitted in the Scientific Reserve on leads, and only on the main track from Manly Street to Otaihanga, and on the beach access track through the dunes from Tutere St carpark to the public beach outside the Reserve.

These arrangements will be seen by Reserve users in new signs, on DOC’s website and are included in a letter drop to the surrounding community. The signs include an acknowledgment of Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai as mana whenua and their support for protection of the Estuary.

Steve Bielby says “We’re pleased so many people enjoy the Scientific Reserve, however it is important to remember this isn’t a recreation reserve and there are many other opportunities for recreation in the area. We really need the community to support the Scientific Reserve, or we risk losing what makes it special.

The arrangements for the Scientific Reserve do not affect Kāpiti Coast District Council tracks on the north bank of the Waikanae River and on the south bank from the Otaihanga Boating Club.


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