A weighty issue
Guest Blogger: Bev Woods, Secretary for the Northern Branch
As many of you will know, our bar tailed godwits are fattening up for their 11,500 kilometre trip to the Alaskan-north, and will depart anytime in the next few weeks. Packing on an estimated 50% of their body weight in fuel, the birds are currently in the throes of what is best described as a feeding frenzy.
However, their attempts to pile on fat is being thwarted by a group of kite-surfers who race through their resting and feeding area, causing them to take flight and use up valuable fuel. This situation is set against a gloomy international picture in which habitats of godwits are shrinking. The drainage of wetlands, and the discharge of toxic discharges are just some of the reasons they have fewer and fewer spots to feed and rest-up. Two years ago, around 6000 godwits came to the Whangarei Harbour habitats. This year there have been only around 3000.
During king tides in the Harbour all the godwits come to the exposed sandbar in Ruakaka Wildlife Refuge.However they are often found jostling for space with kite surfers, who are not subject to the 5 knot rule when within 200 metres of the beach (unlike jet skiers & boaties). Given that there’s a perfectly suitable kite-surfing beach 50m from this estuary, it seems strange there isn’t a blanket rule that prohibits these kite-surfers from this important bird area. It is a habitat for many species including not only godwits, but also oystercatchers, gannets, terns and NZ dotterel.
We need action, and we need it now.