24 Dec 2019

Gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers to remain closed over Christmas

11:42 am on 24 December 2019

The Conservation Department's part of the track to Cape Kidnappers will stay closed over Christmas after two tourists were seriously injured in a rockslide while walking underneath the cliffs in January.

Cape Kidnappers signage

Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

The Department of Conservation and Hastings District Council commissioned a Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA) to assess risk levels and provide better context for managing these risks.

The QRA report was due to be completed by October but was delayed due to weather conditions and a need to recapture drone survey information.

The Hastings District Council has opened a large portion of the beach but the colony of gannets, which popular with tourists, will be off-limits.

Gannet Beach Adventures owner Colin Lindsay told Morning Report he hadn't been able to operate since the slip which meant months of no income.

"The delays have been frustrating. We're actually going back to a closure that occurred in January - we haven't operated since January."

He believed the Hastings District Council accepted the report but the DOC was standing behind the health and safety aspect.

"The beach is currently open and the Hastings District Council are operating that under a management plan. We operate our own management plan - the company's had 67 years of experience out there. We're pretty happy with everything, Hastings District Council is happy with everything."

The public have access to Clifton Beach, which has been open since June. There were tourists still visiting the closed-off area, he said.

"It's not like the walkers are doing anything wrong, unfortunately, the DOC ruling only applies to us. They don't do anything to enforce their policy so it comes down to us operating as a DOC concessionaire."

There is access to the private gannet colony, but the beach is the only public access, he said.

He also suggested reducing his company's four-hour tour to three hours.

Two photos show the progressive slips at Cape Kidnappers where two people were injured.

Two photos show the progressive slips at Cape Kidnappers where two people were injured. Photo: Supplied / Hastings District Council

However, DOC Hawke's Bay operations manager Jenny Nelson-Smith said visitor safety was a top priority and warned rockfalls and landslides could happen at any time.

"It's disappointing that we're not in a position to make a decision before Christmas, but we appreciate the patience and understanding of the community while we ensure we have a solid grasp of the risks," she said.

"The QRA is being independently reviewed to ensure that we have a full understanding of the level of risk so that we can manage it effectively. Only at that point will we be comfortable to make a decision about reopening the reserve."

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