The thought of another summer of cars and motorbikes ‘hooning around’ on Hatfields Reserve, and having to clean up piles of rubbish including fish hooks, nails and human waste, is fueling the anger of local residents.
Toni Abrahams and a group of around 10 other Hatfields residents, mainly dog owners, say the abuse of the reserve has been going on for years.
“We have been picking up rubbish and complaining to Council for many years and have been ignored,” Toni says. “One dog got a fish hook in its mouth, and our dogs have rolled in human excrement. People drive onto the reserve and change their oil. The nature reserve is our only green space and we want it to be safe for all users.”
The seaward side of Hatfields is a public road, and freedom campers often stay there. Toni says once that side is full, people come over to the reserve side, where freedom camping is not allowed.
“It’s a lot more public on the beach side, so there’s less of an issue with rubbish and so on, but at the back of the reserve it’s concealed and people use it as a toilet and leave piles of rubbish, although there is a toilet block and rubbish bins. They have fires using pallets, leaving heaps of nails behind.”
On Labour Day residents say there were dozens of campervans on the reserve.
Toni is clear that the group has no problem with freedom campers or homeless people, saying many are respectful and tidy. A key problem she says is driving on the reserve, and this has led to confrontations with locals.
“We have no problem with sharing. We just want everyone to stick to the rules so that residents can also enjoy the space,” she says. “It’s not safe with dogs and kids around and people picnicking, to have vehicles driving around.”
Discussing the problem with Hibiscus & Bays Local Board chair Gary Brown resulted in No Camping Overnight signs going up on the reserve, which the group is grateful for.
However, Toni says these are often flouted and what is needed is a line of bollards or fencing parallel with the toilet block that leaves room for boaties to park cars and trailers, but prevents driving past that point.
“Gary Brown told me the quote for bollards was $18,500, as it’s quite a distance across,” she says. “I’m sure local tradies could do it cheaper than that.”
An alternative in the meantime, residents have suggested, would be signs to say ‘cars prohibited beyond this point’.
They are also seeking enforcement of Council’s rules.
Auckland Council’s compliance response and investigations manager, Kerri Fergusson, says the compliance team uses a graduated enforcement approach including dealing with overnight camping in reserves.
“This involves investigating complaints and warning overnight campers of the rules,” Kerri says. “If someone repeatedly flouts the rules, then a trespass notice may be issued. We work with social services to assist homeless people and identify alternative accommodation options.”
“At Hatfields Beach, two trespass notices have been issued to different people. We have installed additional signage advising of the “no camping” rule which unfortunately is destroyed regularly. The compliance team patrols the area regularly as a deterrent. If anyone has concerns about anti-social behaviour they should report this to the police.”
Local Board Chair Gary Brown says Council enforcement officers consider Hatfields a priority area and will be stepping up patrols over summer.
He says Council staff are also looking into how the problem of driving on the reserve can be rectified.
“The reserve is used for multiple purposes, some of the issues are quite complex and a long-term solution will need to be found,” he says. “To achieve that staff will follow the due process and, when ready, present their findings/solutions to the local board and seek direction for the next steps.”
Meanwhile, Hatfields residents are gritting their teeth in preparation for another summer.
“Both driving and camping on the reserve escalates in summer,” Toni says. “We don’t know why it takes so long for something to be sorted out.”