A Cape Kidnappers tour operator is frustrated at a decision to again delay the opening of a walking track from Clifton Beach to the Cape Kidnappers gannet colony.
The Department of Conservation (DoC) and Hastings District Council commissioned a Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA) to assess the risk levels after two Korean tourists were injured in a landslide along Cape Kidnappers on January 23.
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The QRA report, which was due to be completed by October, was delayed because of weather conditions and a need to recapture drone survey information, according to DoC.
It has now been put off until after the Christmas break.
Gannet Beach Adventures owner Colin Lindsay said the decision was "not what we wanted to hear".
Lindsay is still running abbreviated tours with his tractors along Clifton Beach, which remains open, but the gannet colony is the jewel in the crown for the summer tourism season.
"Even though DoC announced a couple of weeks ago that the decision was imminent – which was meant to be the opening – they've suddenly backed away from it," Lindsay said.
"For us, it wasn't what we expected or wanted because we'd been led to believe otherwise."
Lindsay added: "[An open track] is the very thing that brings hundreds of visitors to Hawke's Bay over the holiday period.
"When it is open, it is one of the best activities in Hawke's Bay.
"We can still travel along the same stretch of beach, but instead of everyone jumping off the tractors and spending an hour and a half walking up the hillside and having picnics, we will just be remaining on the beach."
DoC Hawke's Bay operations manager Jenny Nelson-Smith said they "acknowledge the track closure has had a significant impact on Gannet Beach Adventure's business" and "thank them for their patience".
"We have been meeting with them over the last few months to keep them updated and will continue to do so in the New Year.
"Visitor safety has to be our top priority, and we need to make sure we have a solid grasp of the risks before we can make a decision about reopening the track.
"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."
Lindsay said members of the public continued to use the reserve, regardless of signage.
"DoC knows that people are still continuing to walk down there," Lindsay said. "They are not actively doing anything to stop that apart from one sign and a press release.
"We feel they should be actively encouraging Gannet Beach Adventures as we are the ones that are out there putting things right.
"We are there every day. Doc just out up a sign and then walk away. The problems they create become our problem – which is what happened on that day."
While people still have access to Clifton Beach, which has been open since June, Hastings District Council said it would continue to manage and monitor the section of beach it administers as per their interim risk management plan.
Nelson-Smith said: "We would like to remind the public that, while Clifton Beach is open, the section of track leading up to the gannet reserve is closed for safety reasons. The colony can still be accessed over private land."
Gannet Safaris Overland, which has been operating for more than 50 years, and runs tours to the gannet reserve said it was not and had not been affected by the slips that occurred along the beach.
"We have experienced an ongoing misunderstanding that the whole colony is closed.
"It is only the access from the beach up to the plateau that is closed. We have full access to the plateau overland and it is business as usual for us."