'Best Kept Secrets' Need Full Disclosure
Almost every day now we see headlines in the media such as ‘Best Summer Swimming Holes’ or ‘Secluded Lake Best Kept Secret’. The problem is, many of these destinations are fast becoming overrun with day trippers, especially since Covid.
It’s true, for example, that Te Henga/Bethells Beach is a wild, wonderful west coast experience. The Te Henga Walkway has some magnificent views for the more adventurous walkers and trampers, and Lake Wainamu is ideal for a dip on a hot day.
But there are downsides. What these media exhortations do not mention are the winding narrow roads, the limited parking and non-existent public transport, the forty-minute walk over hot black sand to the lake (not suitable for pushing strollers or pulling wagons loaded with chilly bins and beach chairs), or the lack of adequate toilet facilities at the Lake and Walkway parking areas. They don’t mention the high E. Coli bacteria in the lagoon, or the risk of drowning in the surf if people swim outside the flags or when there are no lifeguards. They don’t mention the fact that there is zero mobile coverage for roughly 11 kilometers from the beach, so there’s no way to contact friends or family if needed. They don’t mention that people have been seriously injured, sometimes fatally, sliding down the dunes. They don’t mention that dogs are not allowed on the tracks, and only in limited areas at the beach. They don’t mention there are no shops, petrol stations, or any other infrastructure at Te Henga/Bethells Beach. They don’t mention that the walking tracks are becoming littered with rubbish, toilet dumpings, paper and baby wipes.
Since New Year’s Day 2021 a group of local Te Henga/Bethells volunteers have been helping visitors with parking. The recent explosion in visitor numbers has meant that the parking situation at Lake Wainamu and the Te Henga Walkway has been one of mayhem, with the narrowest parts of the road blocked. This has meant emergency vehicles can’t get through, pedestrians are not safe, and cars parked illegally or inconsiderately are getting parking infringements. Volunteers have been managing the traffic, making signs, and providing information to visitors who have no idea where they are going or what to expect. The volunteers have been greeted with gratitude by first time visitors to the area.
We welcome visitors to our beautiful beach and surrounding area but the promotion needs to be balanced with some cautionary facts.