The river is running wild
8 December, 2022
Landowners living on some sections of the banks of the Waipara River fear for their safety due to the increased threatening and dangerous behaviour of a growing number of 4WD users.
They say police need to be more aware of what is going on, and there must be enforcement if anything is to change.
The area predominantly of concern is a section of the Waipara River north of the State Highway 1 bridge that is on private property. It was recent incidences of troublesome 4WD vehicle and ATV use that sparked local police to hold a meeting with concerned landowners and stakeholders, including representatives from Hurunui District Council, Waipara Rivercare Group, some landowners, and a representative of combined 4WD clubs.
Facilitator of the Waipara Rivercare Group Rima Herber who is also the Council’s Water and
Land Coordinator chaired the meeting and said the 4WD club members are not the problem, it is the illegal 4WD use on the river which the meeting was called about.
At the meeting, concerned landowners recounted behaviour involving damage to farm property, fires, firearms, drugs, large convoys of often oversized, noisy and modified 4WD vehicles, ATVs, drunk driving, nighttime activity, noisy vehicles, rubbish, human faeces, illegal camping, poaching and trespassing.
Herber said landowners also spoke of incidences where they had been abused, assaulted and threatened. Some of these examples were delivered via email to Herber by some landowners who were unable to attend the meeting.
“They said people drive up the river in the middle of the night and return some hours later, leaving them sleepless with worry about what these people are getting up to on private land,” said Herber.
One area of particular concern is north of Stringers Bridge which is all private land and only to be accessed on the first weekend of the month and only in road-legal vehicles, as agreed to in the Waipara River Management Strategy.
“We discussed whether this Strategy and its rules and guidelines are still fit for purpose, and this will be looked at in the coming year,” said Herber, including how to protect the complex and precious nature of riverbeds as eco environments for fish and wildlife.
It was agreed by everyone at the meeting including the police, that there needs to be more enforcement on those breaking the rules, and people need to be reminded that riverbeds hold the same laws as a road, meaning all vehicles must be road legal.
Hurunui police sub area Supervisor Sergeant Rob Irvine said getting a grasp on the behaviour on the Waipara River has been historically difficult to capture. He encouraged everyone to report it so police can get a clearer picture of exactly what behaviour is occurring where, and when.
The recent approval to purchase a Police 4WD vehicle and the commitment of the police to work with a part-time Council ranger, means a collective increased presence on the river.
“And we encourage people to use the Rural Lookout ap, it’s great for recording incidences including everything from disrespectful behaviour to trespassing and firearms use and alerts the police immediately,” said Rob.
Nuisance behaviour and breaches of the Strategy rules can also be logged on the Snap Send Solve app and this will give Council information on whether the Strategy is working. Both apps are free to download and easy to use.
The landowners present at the meeting were aware vehicle use on the river is common at times, but agreed that sticking to the Strategy rules, ensuring river users abide by the law and seeing more active enforcement of rules will create a positive change.
Access signs on the Waipara River are also being renewed.
“If everyone kept to the rules, landowners believe the feel of unease on their own properties will reduce,” said Herber.
** As an alternative to using Rural Lookout app, for anything urgent please ring 111, or for non-urgent situations, please ring 105.
Rural Lookout app: www.rurallookout.co.nz
Waipara River Management Strategy: www.waiparariver.org.nz