A Cape Kidnappers tour operator was left "gobsmacked" after the Department of Conservation (DoC) reversed a decision to allow shortened tours to the gannet colonies, causing the closure of his business.
Gannet Beach Adventures owner Colin Lindsay said he received a statement from DoC accusing the company of illegally entering a closed reserve.
"We received a statement from DoC saying that Gannet Beach Adventures have been entering a closed reserve," he said.
"It insinuated that we had been acting illegally, which is completely wrong. That has caused the shutdown of our business."
Lindsay added: "Our company has had three weeks income in the last year. I'd love to see the Department of Conservation operate on those financial restraints."
DoC Lower North Island Operations Director Reg Kemper said a crack across a rock face above Black Reef that "could fall at any time" is the reason behind the closure.
"We have informed Gannet Beach Adventures of the hazard and have reminded the company they are not to operate within the reserve which remains closed," he said.
"Gannet Beach Adventures made the decision to resume their tours over the holiday period, going only as far as the Black Reef gannet colony. However, we understand their tours have been passing through the Cape Kidnappers Gannet Protection Reserve which remains closed."
Kemper added: "We appreciate the closure of the Cape Kidnappers Gannet Protection Reserve has had a significant impact on Gannet Beach Adventure's business."
Hastings District Council and DoC 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.
Lindsay, who claimed his tours don't travel near the closed area, said the "most alarming" aspect of the situation is that the public are still accessing the closed off area.
"The DoC knows that the public are still accessing the whole closed area," he said. "They are not doing anything about that but they have stopped us operating. That is why we feel that it is personal.
"The passengers that we've had to cancel still have the choice of walking out themselves. They haven't achieved anything, other than running us out of business. It's baffling."
Lindsay added: "We are still trying to come to a grip with it all. We will balance up everything – financial and mental stress of it all."
Tukituki National MP Lawrence Yule said the "incompetence and bullying tactics" of DoC over the closure of Cape Kidnappers walking track is ruining local lives and businesses.
"DoC sent a notice to Gannet Beach Adventures saying they have to stop operating, despite being given the green light to start tours up again three weeks ago," he said.
"This tour is not part of the walking track where the slip took place and there is no risk to their operation.
"Gannet Beach Adventures are now considering closing their 68-year-old business as they have no access to the gannets and are struggling financially and emotionally. It is one of Hawke's Bay's biggest and most important tourist attractions."
Yule added: "Hastings District Council own the beach access and is formally allowing people to use it."
Kemper added that the reserve will remain closed until the Quantitative Risk Analysis report is finalised and there is a clear understanding of the degree of risk the rock fall hazards pose to public safety.