By David Hill for Local Democracy Reporting
Braided river bird advocates are fearing for the safety of nesting sites on the Ashley River ahead of Crate Day on Saturday.
The Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group has taken to social media to raise its concerns, with four-wheel-drives expected to be out in force on the river bed.
Crate Day is an ''unofficial holiday'' held on the first Saturday in December and last year it is thought between 150 and 200 4WDs were on the Ashley River bed.
Committee member Judith Hughey said birds, chicks and nests are not easily seen.
''Last year I was observing at the entry point at the Okuku bridge and on the river just to see what happens. I was shocked by the number of vehicles, possibly 150 or more.''
Last year Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group volunteers, Department of Conservation (DOC) staff and Environment Canterbury park rangers were out in force to monitor the 4WDs, but were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, she said.
She said most participants ''did not seem to be malicious'', but were unaware of the damage they could have caused.
''At least one driver went out of his/ her way to destroy signs advising of nesting birds.
''A vehicle came within centimetres of one nest, but no nests were found to have been destroyed.
''At least two nests contained small chicks, which would have been unable to move away from a vehicle.''
Four-wheel-drive enthusiasts responded on Facebook, saying they were aware of the nest locations and ''do their best to avoid them''.
Drivers said they had ''legal rights as taxpayers to legally drive down a river'' and suggested DOC should ''put more effort into identifying and fencing off the nesting areas''.
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.