Don't dick us around Department of Conservation – it's time to re-open the last bit of the track to the upper gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers, at least to those who are experienced guides in the area.

In March last year, Hastings District Council voted to re-open the track it has responsibility for, but DoC decided to keep its designated area closed.

Council has put safety measures in place, including signage and kaitiaki stationed at Clifton to advise and minimise the risks, especially for those attempting to walk without a local tour guide.

It's nearly been a year since the slip that injured two tourists and since then the majestic but temperamental cliffs have been scientifically monitored like never before.


However, for many locals, including the owners of long-established business Gannet Beach Adventures, the risk of slips has always been there but local knowledge built up over many years has ensured that incidents involving passengers have been negated.

I strongly supported the re-opening last March but councillors got a very firm impression from the DoC representative at the council meeting that they would be keeping their part of the track closed until further investigations were completed.

The Quantitative Risk Assessment report, which was first expected in October has been delayed by DoC, who requested further information.

The report has finally been released and puts the risk of travelling along the beach to Cape Kidnappers somewhere between going whitewater rafting to playing golf, depending on how you get there and how you manage your risk.

If you go to the Cape with Gannet Beach Adventures the risk for passengers is put at 1 in 100,000,000, the same as playing golf or cricket.

The ongoing closure continues to have a huge impact on the livelihoods of the owners of Gannet Beach Adventures, as well as other businesses in the area.

Not only has DoC stopped people from accessing the reserve to reach the upper gannet colony but also closed the public toilets, which means that people are going "natural" – hardly great for the environment.

It's time the bureaucrats at DoC (probably in Wellington) stopped being the fun police.


What's ironic is that DoC is actually largely to blame for the increase in tourists walking to see the gannets and putting their lives at risk as they promoted the walk in their "Best Day Hikes" promotion, which saw a dramatic increase in the number of walkers turning up to Clifton and setting off without little local knowledge. Many of them not knowing that you can only walk on a lower tide or walk too close to the cliffs.

Visiting the cape does come with risk and it's best to go with local guides that observe the ever-changing environment on a daily basis.

Come on DoC, stop dicking us around and at least allow an experienced operator to access the last part of the track, so that tourists can enjoy a truly unique experience.

Damon Harvey is a Hastings district councillor