Crackdown on dogs - and cats - being brought into Taranaki national park
Dogs - and even cats - are being brought into Taranaki's Egmont National Park by owners who are ignoring warning signs and threatening rare wildlife, Department of Conservation Rangers say.
A big new 'no dogs' sign has been erected as part of a crackdown after a steady increase in the numbers of animals putting endangered whio (blue ducks) and kiwi at risk, senior ranger Dave Rogers said.
It's illegal under the National Parks Act to take dogs other than guide dogs or police dogs into a national park, even in a vehicle, and dog owners may be fined up to $100,000.
But a rise in visitors, particularly freedom campers and motorhomes, has seen more people ignoring the law, he said.
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"Dogs big or small, ugly or cute, are a danger to kiwi and other native wildlife in the National Park. We're not going to take excuses any longer.
"Even docile dogs can be predatory animals and a threat to native wildlife, and a dog can sniff out a kiwi or whio with ease," Rogers said.
Pet cats were equally unwelcome.
"There's estimated to be just 3000 whio left in the world. We've got around 100 of them here in our park. Imagine if someone's dog killed a whio - how devastating that would be to the whio population."
Many people claimed not to have seen the existing 'no dogs' signs, or assumed the sign did not apply to their dog, he said.
"It's always been a problem but it's grown. One of the things that always seems to bring an increase in dogs is fresh snow."
Other people had been caught taking their dogs up the Mangorei Rd track, an area where kiwi were known to live.
"People think it's okay to leave their dog in the car while they go for a walk or have a coffee - not only is it not allowed - it's dangerous for the dog as it could overheat in a hot car."
The new sign was being placed at North Egmont on Egmont Rd to see if it was effective, before others were put up at other entrances to the park, at Stratford and Lucy's Gully, Rogers said.
He said DOC rangers would be monitoring tracks and carparks over summer and anyone seen with a dog in the National Park may face prosecution.
The department had prosecuted some people in the past, but in most cases people were quick to take their dog and leave the park when spoken to by DOC staff, he said.
Meanwhile there are places aplenty in New Plymouth District where dogs are welcome:
In New Plymouth, take a stroll along the coastal walkway (on leash) or off leash in the Barrett Domain reserve (except the wetland areas and pond), Back Beach, Huatoki and Te Henui (to the Devon Street overbridge) walkways, the Lake Rotomanu/Waiwhakaiho River area and the Audrey Gale Reserve (off Mangorei Road).
At Waitara, pooches can walk free in the Battiscombe Terrace reserve and beach area, along the stop banks by the river and at Waitara Beach.
For pups at Oākura, head to the Matekai Park loop track that goes from the main road down to the coast and loops back, and includes the beach.
At Inglewood, there's the PG Nops scenic reserve, which is on the south side of town, and the bush area adjacent to the rugby field.