Caring for our four-legged friends

Many of us are keen dog owners, and love being able to walk outdoors with our canine friends, enjoying the bush, beaches etc.

It's important however that we respect the rights of everyone else who lives here - including the kiwis, NZ dotterels and little blue penguins who also call Kuaotunu home. 

Whether you are a permanent resident or a visitor, please do your bit to make sure your dog does not cause any distress or harm to any other person, bird or animal while exercising in public areas.

Need a vet?

Whitianga Vets

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Walking your dog on the beach

In Kuaotunu (and neighbouring beaches such as Matarangi, Otama & Opito Bay) you can walk with your dog off leash at most beaches all year round EXCEPT for:

  • public holiday weekends; and 
  • the period from 20 December to 31 January (inclusive)


During these periods dogs are only permitted on beaches before 9 am and after 6 pm (the TCDC dog ranger gives instant fines of $300 to people who break this rule).


Dogs can be exercised in the dog exercise area on Kuaotunu beach at any time of the year - see map below

Read TCDC's detailed rules for Mercury Bay beaches here

Discourage your dog from chasing birds

Many dogs love to chase things, including birds. As dog owners we tend to turn a blind eye, knowing that the chances of our dog catching a seagull for instance are almost non-existent.

However this is encouraging bad behaviour, as when your dog comes across an endangered bird such as a dotterel or a penguin, it doesn't know that it shouldn't chase it.

Did you know? Black billed gulls are also endangered.

Native birds to watch out for on the beach

The NZ dotterel breeds from September to February.

In Kuaotunu they generally nest at the river end of Kuaotunu beach, and the boat ramp end of Kuaotunu West beach.

Please keep your dog on a leash within 100m of a nesting area (note that nesting areas are usually roped off and clearly signposted by the Department of Conservation).

Your dog may not kill a dotterel, but it could easily destroy a nest by running over it. Dotterels also often stop feeding if they are disturbed.

NZ dotterel
NZ dotterel

Little blue penguin
Little blue penguin

Little blue penguins raise their young in burrows in the hillside on the other side of SH25 which runs through Kuaotunu, especially in the area between Kawhero Drive and Hilldale Crescent.

From September to the end of February, young penguins or their parents are often found resting on the rocks by the beach.

Please be aware of this and make sure you know where your dog is at all times when it is off the leash on the beach. Many exhausted penguins are killed by dogs on beaches.

Finding a penguin on the beach or in shallow water during the day means that it’s critically ill and exhausted. Never put it back into the water. If it’s sick enough to approach, you can pick it up with a towel or jacket and move it into the dunes away from predators and the hot sun, or take it to Kuaotunu Bird Rescue. Don’t attempt to feed it or give it water. Exhausted birds will simply choke and die.

Other good walks for dogs

There are a number of popular public walking tracks in the Kuaotunu/Matarangi area that permit dogs if they are on a lead.

For example, the walk from the Rings Beach carpark to Matarangi along the part of Bluff Rd which is now open for pedestrians and cyclists only has spectacular scenery and is an easy and pleasant walk.

There is also the walking track in the Rings Beach Reserve which can also be accessed from the Rings Beach carpark.

Read the signs - on some DOC land dogs are not permitted at all, however on others dogs are permitted so long as they are on a lead.

Do you live in Kuaotunu or visit here regularly?

As a result of the wonderful work of the Project Kiwi Trust, we are privileged to share our environment in Kuaotunu with many wild Kiwi.

One of the biggest enemies of Kiwis in the wild is dogs, and the Trust therefore encourages all Kuaotunu residents, and visitors who holiday here frequently, to take their dogs to Kiwi Aversion training sessions once a year.

These sessions take approximately 10 minutes per dog and they are free. To book one of these sessions, or to register your interest in future sessions, please email Sheila at avertmydog@projectkiwi.org.nz or text her on 021 716514.