Ruakaka: for birds and kiteboarders

SurferToday has been following the controversy between the Northland Regional Council, in New Zealand, and the local kiteboarding community. In October 2010, birdwatchers wanted to ban kiteboarders from the Ruakaka estuary, in the Northern region of the country, as they defended that the sport was disturbing wildlife.

Recently, the battle has intensified and David Kay, kiteboarder and instructor, has been threatened with prosecution after "being seen disturbing birds at the Ruakaka Wildlife Refuge".

Kay claims kiteboarding is an easy target and that the local conservationists threw the council into the public dispute. Also, the kiteboarder says he will fight to protect the right to sporting activities, as kiteboarding disturbs birds just as walking, kayaking and boating do.

The council has received complaints that kiteboarding is disturbing the birds' breeding, roosting and feeding but, in fact, a 2009 survey found bird disturbances were also caused by walkers, swimmers, boat users, jet skiers, windsurfers, horse riders and fishermen.

Birds and their nests have the right to tranquility and silence, but it is not fair enough to blame kiteboarders. The rules for the Ruakaka Wildlife Refuge should be revised in order to gather all interest and right. Banning a wind sport is definitely not the correct path.