Eight newly-appointed Kaitiaki Rangers have begun patrolling the beaches and lakes on the Karikari Peninsula after receiving their Certificates of Training in Situational Safety and Tactical Communication at an informal hui near Lake Rotopotaka (Coca Cola Lake) at Tokerau Beach.
The hui also acknowledged the mahi they had embarked upon, and introduced them to the numerous groups and agencies that had made the endeavour possible.
Four marae were each represented by the Kaitiaki Rangers, Leena Taylor said, with the assistance and backing of the Far North District Council, the Northland Regional Council and the Department of Conservation, and financial support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The Far North District Council's infrastructure project delivery manager, Paul Carr, said the ministry was keen to support initiatives that would encourage responsible behaviour by campers and visitors.
Haina Tamehana and her Department of Conservation team had enabled the project to be established with their "just do it" attitude, he added, while he also appreciated the help provided by FNDC facilities operation team leader Nina Gobie.
Everyone wanted to see the pilot project succeed and grow, and perhaps expand around the district, he said.
The programme is designed to bring local knowledge and resources together to foster safe and appropriate use of the Karikari Peninsula's beaches, lakes and rivers, DoC's Te Hiku Treaty settlement implementation adviser Abraham Witana saying that as manawhenua, the Kaitiaki Rangers had a mandate from their marae to fulfil their ancestral obligations to protect the whenua and moana — the land, sea and rivers.
Ms Tamehana said the Kaitiaki Rangers' role would include education: this season it was all about doing the footwork and establishing the programme. They would be talking to people on the beaches and near rivers and lakes, reminding them of speed limits (30km/h on Tokerau Beach), keeping dirt bikes and quads off sand dunes, and not using soap products in fresh water sources.
They would be gathering data about the way beaches and parks were being used, the numbers of visitors and where they were from, and report on any incidents and discussions they had with visitors or locals about those issues.
The initial concept of supporting beach safety arose from the Tokerau Beach warden project run several years ago, originating from an idea floated by Te Hiku Community Board member Lawrie Atkinson and implemented by the Tokerau Beach and Whatuwhiwhi Residents' and Ratepayers' Association.
When that programme was shut down by district council staff, the association was told it could resume if the association took full responsibility for the safety of the volunteers. That was not acceptable, and it was referred back to the council.
Chairman Brian Page said the association was pleased to see the new initiative become operational. It was hoped that the Kaitiaki Rangers would receive the full support of the community, and the peninsula's beaches would become safer places for families to enjoy.
Mr Carr said it was important that MBIE receive a positive and full report to enable the initiative to grow.
It was already achieving some success because everyone was collaborating.
"It is rare to get so many agencies, tangata whenua and local groups working together," he said.
"If we can make it happen here, where are the limitations further afield?"
Ms Gobie agreed, saying that as data were collected, agencies would become more aware of what was happening on the peninsula, and would respond appropriately, in turn helping to influence positive changes in public behaviour.