Community feedback on four options to reduce the impact vehicles have on juvenile toheroa at Oreti Beach closed with 747 survey forms completed.
Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell said, “Getting such a large number of opinions and suggestions gives the councillors a really good steer for their discussions. I think the number also reflects how important this topic is to the community.”
Chairman Horrell said doing nothing is not an option. “Environment Southland is required to protect these special species, and councillors are proactively looking at solutions to make this happen.”
The options presented to protect toheroa on Oreti Beach ranged from full vehicle exclusion to partial restrictions.
Some interesting alternative solutions to the four proposed options were also submitted. Suggestions included allowing only seasonal vehicle access to the beach, fencing off an area and possibly adding concrete barriers. A lot of comments acknowledged that some compromise was going to be needed that gives toheroa protection while maintaining the ability for vehicles to access to the beach.
Many other people offered ideas for the area in general. These included an expansion of the existing car park, adding amenities to the car park and new trails, and allowing for access for the disabled and elderly by installing walkways or ramps to ensure they can still use the beach and access it.
During the feedback period, people could have their say online or via a survey form. Environment Southland staff also spent time talking directly to people at the beach and encouraging them to provide feedback.
Staff are now collating all the feedback and preparing a report that will be presented to the councillors and Te Ao Mārama Inc board members in April. The report will include analysis of the survey options, as well as other options presented by the community. They will discuss all the feedback received and consider their preferred option. Staff will then include this when drafting the rules in the new Southland Coastal Plan.
Later this year we will be seeking your feedback on other key issues related to Southland’s coast, and there will be a formal consultation period for the new Southland Coastal Plan next year.