Labour weekend, paired with beautiful warm weather, saw an increase in visitor numbers to offshore pest free islands in Tāmaki-makau-rau/Auckland. However, reports of dogs being brought onto protected islands like Rangitoto/Peretū and Motutapu have raised concerns for the safety of the native species that live there. Dogs are banned from all island reserves in the Hauraki Gulf, including beaches and areas below the high-tide mark.
DOC Senior Biodiversity Ranger David Wilson says, “It is great to see people out and about and exploring their natural environment, but it’s extremely disappointing to see so many people putting threatened wildlife at risk and disregarding the rules by bringing pets onto the island.”
Motutapu island is home to threatened native birds including takahē, Coromandel brown kiwi, tīeke/saddleback, pōpokotea/whitehead, tūturuatu/shore plover and pāteke. When visiting, tourists and domestic travellers must check their gear for any pests such as rats or insects and are strictly prohibited from bringing with them any pets such as dogs. Ferries servicing these islands do not allow passengers to board if they have these animals with them.
David Wilson says “We understand that people love their dogs, but no matter how well-trained they are, they are predators. It’s not worth the risk to our species, and no pet owner wants the responsibility – or the penalty – of their pet having killed a kiwi or takahē.
“Bringing pets also poses a biosecurity risk in terms of anything else they might bring along, like seeds in their coat or paws.”
Mana whenua leader Billy Brown from Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki observes that effective kaitiakitanga was at risk with dogs coming onshore. “We are very concerned with the impact on our birdlife and other taonga with these incursions.”
Under the Conservation Act anyone caught bringing dogs to prohibited areas can face up to 12 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.