Far North police are preparing for a possible protest today by bikers and off-road enthusiasts aggrieved over fences barring access to dunes on iwi-owned land near Ahipara.
Earlier this month a plan to hold a ''truck and bike day to take back Ahipara dunes'' on August 25 was announced on a Facebook event page. More than 80 people said they would take part and another 400-plus said they were interested before the page was deleted.
Far North iwi Te Rarawa has put up fences along 4km of dunes on Tauroa Peninsula, east of Ahipara, and another 1km along Ninety Mile Beach near Lake Waimimiha.
The iwi, which is also planning a get-together on the beach today, says the fences are needed to protect fragile dunes, rare plants and cultural sites from erosion caused by vehicles.
Senior Sergeant Russell Richards, of Kaitaia police, said extra staff would be on duty in Kaitaia and Ahipara to talk to locals and out-of-towners coming in on bikes, while traffic staff from Auckland would be monitoring the behaviour of riders heading north.
Police would be urging each side to ''understand the others' concerns and have adult conversations about the reasons for the fencing''.
He put tensions over the fencing down to miscommunication and social media posts telling only half the story.
Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi said the iwi would hold a rally on the beach with a barbecue, an overnight stay and a wānanga (education session) encouraging young people to get involved in looking after the land.
The fence, which was completed about three weeks ago, was sporadic and blocked entry points to some of the most vulnerable dunes as well as middens and other cultural sites.
The iwi was ''planning to do its own thing'' today and would avoid conflict. If there were any incidents they would be left to police to resolve.
There were a lot of misconceptions about what had been fenced off and why, Piripi said.
''A lot of people think we're fencing off the beach but we're not. The areas we've fenced are areas we don't go ourselves and we don't want others to.''
People would still be able to drive on the beach and around Tauroa Pt.
Piripi said controversy around the dune fence was ''a litmus test'' of the kind of situation likely to arise more often as Treaty settlements returned more land to iwi that people had long treated as publicly owned, and iwi insisted on better management of coastal areas.
The protest organiser, who has since deleted his Facebook event page, could not be contacted for comment.