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Finding ways to control vehicles on sand dunes

Tuesday 5 April 2005

Finding ways to control vehicles on sand dunes

Environment Bay of Plenty wants to find ways to control vehicles that are damaging the region’s coastal dunes. But it’s not going to be easy.

The regional council’s strategic policy committee has asked staff to look at options for stopping people from driving on and damaging sand dunes.

The move follows reports that more and more vehicles are being driven on beaches and dunes between Tirohanga Beach in the Opotiki district and east Papamoa. As well as creating safety concerns, some vehicles are badly damaging the coastal dunes and associated ecology. They are causing erosion and increasing the risk of storm damage.

Committee chairman Bryan Riesterer says many people are aware the dune environment is not suitable for vehicle use but a minority of locals and visitors “simply do not care and are repeat offenders”.

“They believe they have a right to use their vehicles in the dunes and ignore the impact they are having on them. Remember, it is the first vehicle that does the most damage.”

Education, fencing and the creation of official vehicle accessways are all important ways of getting around the problem. However “consistent, understandable and enforceable” rules may also be needed to control vehicles that are reckless or damage the beach and dunes.

“Because existing enforcement is sporadic and poorly resourced, we may need a regulatory backstop for this type of driver.” It would have to be a long-term solution that applies across the whole region.

At the moment, vehicles in the coastal environment are regulated by a number of different, and often overlapping, rules and jurisdictions. They include the Resource Management Act, Local Government Act bylaws, the Land Transport Act and the Conservation Act.

Different parts of the coastal strip also have different landowners, which makes the situation even more complex. Land types can include reserve land, Maori land with multiple owners, road reserve and private land.

Senior environmental planner Aileen Lawrie says the “jumble of land parcels” means that, to be effective, regulation must come from provisions which can cover the whole coastal environment. Local Government Act bylaws and Resource Management Act plan rules fit in this category.

Specific problem spots for vehicle use include Ohiwa and Bryans Beach, Waiotahi, Ohope, the Matata Straights, Pukehina and the coastal strip between the Rangitaiki River and Coastlands. Local residents generally keep an eye on East Cape beaches while Waihi and Mount Maunganui beaches have restricted vehicle accessways, parking areas, fences and easy pedestrian access.

The strategic policy committee now wants staff to officially approach coastal district and city councils to discuss ways to protect the coastal environment, including the use of regulation to deal with the minority of problem users.


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