Dog rule protects Snells Beach shorebirds

Publish Date : 30 Aug 2023
Eastern bar-tailed godwits taking to flight at Snells Beach.

A temporary change to the dog walking rules at the northern end of Snells Beach will help endangered shorebirds roost and breed in safety.

Snells Beach is a hotspot for threatened and at-risk shorebirds and to protect them, Auckland Council’s dog walking rules are changing from 1 September 2023 to 25 March 2024.

During this time dogs are:

  • prohibited from all beach and intertidal areas, north of the Sunburst Avenue boat ramp
  • permitted on leash on all reserves, north of the Sunburst Avenue boat ramp.

The beach’s northern area is an important habitat for many native shorebird species which include tūturiwhatu/ NZ dotterel, tōrea/variable oystercatchers and kuaka/ bar tailed godwits. New Zealand’s most endangered bird, tara iti or New Zealand fairy tern has also visited over the past five years.

Auckland Council's Natural Environment Team Manager Andrew Nelson says that local volunteers with support from council staff are working hard to manage threats to these special shorebirds.

“Volunteers spend many hours preparing for the shorebirds’ arrival, safeguarding their habitat and planting wetland and dune areas.

“Every year our most common Artic migrants, the kuaka, fly non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand. After their incredible 11,000 kilometres flight, they roost at high tide marks on the beach’s northern end.

“Our beaches are busy over summer and kuaka are wary and easily spooked by people and dogs. If the birds are disturbed, they fly away but often they don’t have anywhere else to go. It’s that constant interruption which affects their health and ability to rest and feed.”

Signs reminding people of the temporary rule change will be installed along the beach and on adjacent reserves.

Rodney Local Board Chair Brent Bailey says that for the most part, the need for this temporary change to the dog rules is respected by the community.

“When people walk their dogs elsewhere, they don’t disturb the shorebirds, and they support our local volunteers’ conservation efforts.”

Nearby places for dog walking are:

  • South of the Sunburst Reserve boat ramp until 30 November, and from 1 December to 1 March before 10am or after 5 pm
  • Goodall Reserve (behind Mahurangi East Library)
  • Te Whau Esplanade Reserve (Dawson Road end)
  • Dawson Road Reserve.

Dog access rules for all other beach and reserve areas south of the Sunburst Avenue Boat ramp are unchanged. These rules can be found in the Auckland Council Policy on Dogs 2019 document available on the council website.

Any enquiries regarding the temporary change to dog access rules, should be emailed to

How you can help

  • Always give shorebirds plenty of space. Make it a habit to walk on the wet sand to avoid disturbing shorebirds and possibly crushing camouflaged nests and eggs.
  • Dog owners are expected to know and follow the rules for the areas where they walk their dogs. This information is available on the council website.
  • Cat owners are asked to keep cats at home and inside at night to protect the natural environment.
  • Volunteer with a local community conservation group or at your local park and for details, visit

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