Driving restrictions being considered for Southland beach to protect toheroa

Motorists who've traditionally driven on a South Island beach might face restrictions as officials consider action to save a vulnerable shellfish.

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Officials are considering action to save a vulnerable shellfish. Source: 1 NEWS

Vehicles are killing young toheroa at Oreti Beach near Invercargill and the public's being asked for feedback on ways to reduce the impact.

The native clam starts its life in the upper part of the surf zone, and it's estimated close to a quarter of the young population's being wiped out.

“We know from the surveys that numbers have been declining, so status quo is not an option going forward,” Nicol Horrell of Environment Southland told 1 NEWS.

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Taking of the prized shellfish is illegal without a permit. Source: 1 NEWS

Toheroa are found in the wet sand, about 20 centimetres below the surface.

However, it's the young shellfish in the softer sand that are threatened by roughly 100,000 vehicles driving along Oreti Beach every year.

The regional council wants exclusion zones along the 17-kilometre beach - ranging from either banning vehicles south of the main entrance, or completely closing vehicle access to the whole beach.

Some residents are hoping to see vehicle access continued to be allowed to a popular flounder fishing spot on the beach.

The council's taking public feedback on the issue until February 21.