A man who pulled a bogged vehicle out of the estuary mouth at Ruakaka Beach also drove his tractor backwards and forwards over the sandspit where endangered seabirds nest, a conservationist says.
Margaret Hicks said she telephoned the Department of Conservation (DoC) hotline three times on Sunday about a vehicle coming to ''a blinding halt'' and getting stuck while trying to cross the estuary mouth which is part of the Ruakaka Wildlife Reserve. Two of the calls related to the actions of a ''farm-type machine'' that some time later dragged out the nearly submerged ute.
Ms Hicks is angry that no one from DoC came to assess the situation. She said she even passed on the registration number of the beached ute to DoC.
Ms Hicks said that while it was vital for the ute to be dragged out of the incoming tide, she believed there was no need for the tractor driver to drive backwards and forwards on the sandspit, close to the temporary fences and the DoC signs warning people to stay away from the protected birds.
A volunteer DoC warden, Ms Hicks puts the fences around the nesting sites of dotterels, oystercatchers and other native coastal birds at the wildlife refuge.
DoC Whangarei operations overseer Dave Bolland said that by the time the incident was relayed to the stand-by ranger the vehicle had been removed.
Mr Bolland said the operator did the right thing in notifying the Whangarei duty staff member about it, but the hotline was intended for reporting emergency situations such as fires, whale strandings and significant environmental risks.
Mr Bolland described Ruakaka Beach and the estuary mouth as ''a challenging area'' that often saw complaints arise over motorbikes, horse riding, vehicles, kite boarders, wind surfers and other beach use. There were signs in place warning that vehicles were not allowed on part of the beach, and DoC had signs up about bird protection.
''The department [DoC] asks all members of the public to respect the signage about vehicles on the beaches, and respect the natural environment and rights of other beach users, too.''
The Ruakaka River mouth is impassable by most vehicles at any tide.
Kev and Jeanette Wigmore, whose property overlooks it, said they had seen many vehicles come a cropper there, even at the lowest tide.
''You just can't drive across there,'' Ms Wigmore said.
The couple saw the ute get stuck on Sunday and called the local fire brigade and the police and were told the vehicle's driver or owner had arranged to have it hauled out.