Rubbish - including used nappies and bags of household waste - has been dumped in the picturesque Te Toto Gorge near Raglan and visitors are being asked to dob in offenders, who face fines of between $300 and $5000.
The Department of Conservation (DoC) is responsible for the management of the amphitheatre-shaped gorge, which is significant to local iwi Tainui.
The gorge, just south of Raglan, overlooks the Tasman Sea on the south western slopes of Te Maunga o Karioi west of Pirongia Forest Park and was once the site of Māori gardens.
DoC's Waikato District Biodiversity and Recreation/Historic Supervisor Glyn Morgan says rubbish dumping at Te Toto Gorge is an ongoing issue for the department and mana whenua, and disrespects the importance of the location and its history.
"We've found some disgusting stuff dumped out there – used nappies, bags of household waste, construction materials, and even 180 old tyres, which we removed in a joint operation with Waikato Regional Council," Morgan says.
"The effort we have to go to clean up and dispose of this junk takes our team away from core conservation work and diverts our resources from protecting threatened species and improving visitor experiences."
Under the Conservation Act, an individual can face up to two years' imprisonment or a fine up to $100,000 for contaminants dumped on conservation land.
A corporate can face up to a $200,000 fine and under the Litter Act, an individual can be fined up to $5000 and a corporate up to $20,000.
Since the passing of the Conservation (Infringement Systems) Act 2018, the department has the ability to issue infringement notices for minor instances of littering. The penalty for littering on conservation land is a fine of up to $300.
Morgan says all local councils offer refuse disposal services to residents and businesses.
"So, ultimately there's absolutely no excuse for tipping trash into a location like this. We're sick of it and find it grossly disrespectful," he says.
Any visitors to Te Toto Gorge who see rubbish dumping or similar behaviour are urged to take down details of any vehicles or people they see involved.
"Registration numbers, vehicle descriptions and photographs are very useful to us in pursuing the dumpers," Morgan says.
"Any information can be provided to us by the public via the 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) line."