Toheroa consultation

    Why is Environment Southland proposing to restrict vehicle access on the beach?

    We are proposing to restrict vehicles on the beach to protect the toheroa populations. Research has shown that young toheroa (less than 40mm in size) are crushed by vehicles driving on the beach.  It has been estimated that vehicles increase mortality in young toheroa by at least 23%.[1] 

    There are several options for vehicle restrictions being considered. We’d like your feedback on your preferred option.


    [1]Moller JA, Garden C, Moller SI, Beentjes M, Skerrett M, Scott D, Stirling FF, Moller JS, Moller H (2014). Impact of vehicles on recruitment of toheroa on Oreti Beach. Ecosystems Consultants Report 2014/2. [Online at: https://www.ecosystemsconsultants.co.nz/project/conserving-a-taonga-species-and-recreation].

    What are toheroa and why are they important?

    Toheroa are a native surf clam. Adult toheroa live about 20cm below the surface of the beach, while young toheroa are generally located closer to the surface in the softer sand near the dunes. The toheroa beds on Oreti Beach are nationally significant as they are home to one of the largest populations in New Zealand.

    Toheroa are of immense cultural importance.  They are a special kai moana (seafood) and a taonga (treasured species) for Ngāi Tahu – this website https://ngaitahu.iwi.nz/culture/mahinga-kai/ explains the cultural significance of toheroa. 

    Why does Environment Southland need to protect toheroa?

    Environment Southland is required to sustainably manage the coastal environment under the Resource Management Act.  One way we manage the coastal environment is through the Regional Coastal Plan for Southland. The coastal plan is out of date and is therefore being reviewed.  As part of this review, we must include and implement any national policy direction that has come into effect since our plan was created, such as the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (2010) (NZCPS).  

    The NZCPS requires the control of vehicles on beaches, foreshore, seabeds and adjacent public land where damage, harm, or disturbance may result. The NZCPS also requires that adverse effects of activities on “habitats of indigenous species where the species…are naturally rare” are avoided. These policies mean we must act to manage adverse effects on toheroa populations. 

    What vehicles are being considered for restriction and why?

    The restricted areas would apply to all vehicles, including cars, four-wheel drives, buses, motorbikes (including both quad bikes and two wheelers). Research has shown that even light vehicles such as motorbikes can crush young toheroa.[1]


    Will people with limited mobility still be able to access Oreti Beach?

    Yes. Most options being considered mean that public access to the beach via vehicles will be maintained, however Option D (total exclusion) would mean that no vehicles would have access to the beach and this would make it harder for those with limited mobility to access the beach. If this was the preferred option, other provisions would need to be made to facilitate access for those with limited mobility.

    Is the beach a public road? How can you restrict access to a public road?

    Yes, the beach is a legal road. However this does not stop regional plans from establishing provisions. For example, we are able to establish rules restricting access for the purpose of the sustainable management of the region’s natural and physical resources. 

    Why is Environment Southland tasked with making rules to restrict beach access? Aren’t the Invercargill City Council and Southland District Council responsible for the management of the beach?

    Many organisations have a role in the management of Oreti Beach, including:

    ·  Department of Conservation;

    ·  Environment Southland;

    ·  Invercargill City Council;

    ·  Southland District Council;

    ·  Ministry for Primary Industries;

    ·  New Zealand Police; and

    ·  Waihōpai Rūnaka.

    In 2014, these organisations worked together to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which outlines the roles and responsibilities they have in the management of Oreti Beach. The purpose of the MOU is to develop an approach to enhance the amenity and natural environment of the beach and surrounding area. The MOU recognises the impact that human activity is having on the beach including the disturbance of the toheroa beds.

    The Invercargill City Council, Southland District Council and Environment Southland are responsible for the sustainable management of Oreti Beach in different locations. Generally speaking, Environment Southland is responsible for the management of the Coastal Marine Area (the line on the beach where waves reach at high tide on a king tide) and the other two councils are generally responsible for the sustainable management of land and resources above the Coastal Marine Area.  

    However, on this occasion Environment Southland is considering establishing rules across both the Coastal Marine Area and the land above it. Environment Southland can establish rules across these areas where they are for maintaining indigenous biological diversity – in this case, to protect young toheroa.

    Will the Burt Munro beach race still occur?

    Yes, the Burt Munro beach race has a resource consent until 2022.  We know the Burt Munro beach race is an important event for Southlanders and visitors to the region.  We are considering allowing resource consent applications to be submitted for special events to occur within restricted vehicle zones. If you think this is a good idea, then let us know.

    Can I dig for toheroa on Oreti beach?

    Toheroa are protected, meaning there is no commercial or recreational allowance for the gathering of toheroa. They are a prohibited species under Fisheries Regulations and must not be taken, possessed or disturbed unless authorised by a Customary Authority. In accordance with the Treaty of Waitangi Settlement Act 1992 only guardians (called tangata kaitiaki or tangata tiaki) appointed by Rūnanga and confirmed by the Minister of Fisheries are able to approve Customary Authorisations. It is possible to request a customary authority for collecting toheroa on Oreti Beach.

    What other matters are being considered under the Regional Coastal Plan Review?

    The Regional Coastal Plan covers the entire Southland coast from Fiordland right round to the east coast and includes the coastal environment of Stewart Island/Rakiura. The whole coastal plan is being reviewed, which means all the objectives, policies and rules that currently span 100s of pages and a range of issues are being looked at. Some of the activities currently managed under the coastal plan include:

    ·  Structures within the Coastal Marine Area, for example jetties and wharves

    ·  Vessel activities, for example cruise ships, scenic boat tours and charter boats

    ·  Aquaculture, for example mussel and salmon farms

    How can I stay informed of the Regional Coastal Plan Review process?

    If you would like to keep informed of the coastal plan process, let us know and we can add you to our database so you will receive updates as the review progresses. Our website also has details about the coastal plan review process, including what is being covered and when public consultation is planned. Visit the webpage here.