• ‘Allow four-wheel-drive vehicles, including quad bikes’

BAN the hoons on two-wheelers but allow the legitimate use of four-wheel- drive vehicles and quads on beaches.

That was the call from many at a hearing yesterday of submissions to the Opotiki District Council’s Draft Consolidated Bylaws and Dog Control Policy.

The beaches section of the bylaw attracted 88 submissions with some submitters fully or partially supportive of the proposed prohibition of vehicles and horses from beaches in the district and others strongly opposed.

Several submitters suggested that rather than increasing the beach areas where vehicles were banned, a balanced approach should be taken to the matter.

Ohiwa resident Meg Collins, who is an advocate for dotterels and other birds, said “ambiguous signs” were part of the problem with protecting bird habitats. “Everybody ignores them,” she said.

She and her husband, Mike, showed the hearing committee several photos of vehicles and dogs in prohibited areas.

Waiotahe Drifts resident Bob Wickham said there were lots of families and children using the beaches, and using 4WD vehicles to get to their desired spots.

“If you cut out traffic, they will have to walk several kilometres,” he said.

Dennis O’Meara, also from the subdivision, said a balance needed to be found between the needs of “voting residents” and environmental and conservation issues.

Mr O’Meara said dotterels did not nest or breed below the high tide mark and that he did not oppose the banning of vehicles in bird breeding areas.

“We suggest banning all two-wheel bikes and motorbikes from the beaches and estuaries,” he said.

“Allow four-wheel drive vehicles, including quad bikes, as currently allowed.”

Mr O’Meara also suggested approved access points be signposted with the bylaws clearly written – and that penalties for breaching the bylaw should be clearly published and enforced.

“Radical changes to the bylaws, denying residents their historical or customary rights of access for gathering firewood, fishing or recreation will create a huge negative reaction and more damage to the environment.”

Rotorua lawyer David Rendall, who said he represented 11 submitters to the bylaw, said the majority of motorised beach users did not create any problems.

“If you completely ban access, then the legitimate users will ignore you,” he said.

“This will result in management issues and cycles of policing.”

Mr Rendall said there were several categories of residents who relied on vehicles for their use of beaches and “reasonable access” to beaches needed to be maintained.

“You’ve got grandmas who cannot walk, autistic children, and lots of fishermen,” he said.

Mr Rendall said establishing a functional bylaw was a balancing act.

“If you create a fair and reasonable bylaw, then a reasonable person would follow it.”

If the council would restrict the “no-go areas” to very specific places, and this was accepted, then Mr Rendall’s clients would remove their opposition.

By installing an unreasonable bylaw, the council would face mounting compliance costs.

Opape resident Grant Kelly showed a photo presentation that illustrated some of the problems at the Opape beach.

BEACH BYLAW: Bay of Plenty Regional Council natural resources policy manager Stephen Lamb speaks during the hearing. Photo Sven Carlsson OS0356-01

He first displayed a photo of 55 people enjoying “whanau summertime” on the beach, which included several children spread out peacefully across the beach.

Contrasting this, a photo of a male on a two-wheeler bike, riding on the rear wheel, presented a real problem.

“He is not fishing and he’s not swimming,” Mr Kelly said.

“He’s driving up and down the beach, which is his speedway track.”

Submissions received

OF the 92 submissions Opotiki District Council received on its Draft Consolidated Bylaws and Dog Control Policy, 88 commented on the beaches bylaw and its proposal to prohibit vehicles and horses.

Here is some of what submitters have told the council. …

  • Against prohibition

“You are taking away people’s lifestyle gathering wood, whitebaiting, fishing and a lot of other things. – Joseph Howe

“People need to access traditional kai gathering places. As far as the Waiotahi Beach access adjacent to The Drifts it appears you have excluded vehicles at the whim of the developers of the new subdivision. People have accessed this area for all time for kai.” – Tareha Walker

“I disagree with the total ban of vehicles and horses between high and low tide lines in vehicle restricted areas but am ok with total restriction in dotterel dunes areas and dunes in general. Driving on the beach to collect firewood or taking dogs for a run or fishing or having a bonfire on the beach are the best part of living in Opotiki …”

– Julie Deeley

“…. I agree that people shouldn’t be up in the actual dunes, tearing it up and hooning down the beach. There is a big difference between that and law-abiding people going fishing white baiting. Either way this goes, I will still be taking my children and grandchildren fishing and whitebaiting as we did with our tipuna in years gone past.”

– Hasley Moore

  • For prohibition

“Surely it is high time to prevent any motorised vehicle from driving on our nationally significant and famous taonga – Waiotahe Beach. There is ample beach vehicle access (for launching craft such as contikis and loading driftwood onto trailers etcetera) very nearby … Complete prohibition makes policing easy – ticket offenders.” – John Dickson

“This is a very delicate part of the environment and should be respected as such. It’s really not necessary to drive on the beach and having a vehicle free beach like Ohope would be a plus for the area.

– Steve Lowry

“All motor vehicles should be prohibited on the beaches from Ohiwa Spit through to Waiotahe Spit.
“These valuable and relatively unspoiled beaches should be reserved for passive recreational uses, not motorbikes, quad bikes and SUVs.”

– Michael Collins