The Hawke's Bay Regional Council and police have joined forces to stop dirt bike riders illegally riding on sections of the region's trails as they have become a hazard to walkers and cyclists and are damaging the pathways.
In a statement yesterday, the council said dirt bikes and other motorbikes are not permitted on the Hawke's Bay trails.
"The cycleways or pathways are designed for walking and cycling, and a collision with a fast moving dirt bike could cause serious injury or death."
While there had always been an occasional motorcyclist straying on to the pathway, Hawke's Bay Regional Council's rivers manager Vince Byrne said the problem has grown recently.
A change in the gate system to make it easier for cyclists to get through has also made it easy for dirt bikers as well. The problem has reached such an extent that the previous "kissing gate" system is being reinstated in the worst areas.
"We've had a lot of complaints from people who have felt at risk when a dirt bike rider has been on the pathway or in a regional park where they are not allowed," Mr Byrne said.
He said the noise and the damage these bikes caused also angered people who valued the peaceful recreational aspects of the trails.
Mr Byrne said there is no excuse for trespassing on to the trails or parks, "especially as Hawke's Bay Regional Council has set aside designated areas of the riverbank for off-road vehicles to have fun where they will not be a danger to walkers or cyclists."
The problem is not confined to the Heretaunga Plains trails; the problem has been experienced on the new Central Hawke's Bay trail as well.
Because the Hawke's Bay trails are technically roads, police have advised that enforcement action may also include issues around the manner of riding, registration, warrant of fitness and rider licensing as well as illegal use of the trails and damage.
"These pathways are a valuable community resource utilised by many locals and visitors alike and, as such, need to be looked after," said New Zealand police's Senior Constable John Gillon.
Mr Gillon has written to residents near pathways to alert them to the seriousness of the issue and ask them to inform him or the Hawke's Bay Regional Council rivers manager if any dirt bikers are seen illegally using the pathway.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council will soon be appointing a new role of cycle network co-ordinator who will also look at ways of ensuring the pathways can be enjoyed safely by legitimate users.