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Moves to protect Marlborough beaches from quad bikes

Council moves to protect fossil-covered beaches from quad-biking fishermen

Fishermen are "staggered" they may no longer be able to ride quad bikes down fossil-covered beaches in Marlborough.

The Marlborough District Council has agreed to draw up a bylaw banning drivers from a 45-kilometre stretch of coast, from the Awatere River mouth to the Ure River mouth, after concerns from residents.

The Marlborough District Council is looking to ban vehicles from 45 kilometres of the region's east coast. Photo: CHLOE RANFORD/LDR

Drivers have long cruised the region's east coast, but access to it became easier after the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake exposed flat platforms of reef which used to be under water.

Council strategic planner Sarah Edmonds said increased access was hampering the recovery of the environment, and putting people and threatened indigenous species at risk.

"There will be long-term damage if vehicle acess continues," she said.

Her report was presented to the council's planning, finance and communities committee on Thursday, and said it had a "duty" to control vehicle access to Marlborough's east coast.

The report proposed cutting off beach access to vehicles, from Redwood Pass to Ward, and introducing a speed limit at Marfells Beach and Ward Beach, where fishers could still launch their boats.

The bylaw would also restrict vehicles on unformed roads.

Marlborough Angling and Surfcasting Club president David Miller said he was "staggered" the bylaw was approved.

"I can't believe it. They can't close beaches off like that."

Miller, who fished along the stretch at least 10 times a year, was also part of a group that cycled the coastline.

"Recently we cycled to the lighthouse and had a picnic. We were on the sand, so we were no damage to the environment."

He had previously attended a meeting in Ward where members had discussed their concerns about quad bikes running over dotterel birds and their nests, before suggesting a vehicle ban.

"I said all beaches are legally public roads and that the council didn't have the authority to restrict access to a beach like that."

He would encourage the club's 70 members to object during the bylaw's consultation period, which had not yet been given a set date.

A fisherman, who did not want to be named, said someone would end up "drowning or getting hurt" trying to access areas on their boat close to reefs, which were previously accessible on a quad.

"The new bylaw means you can only launch small boats from, say, Marfells Beach, but it's rough there at the best of times."

Forest and Bird top of the south regional manager Debs Martin said the news was received with excitment, but resignation.

"We know we'll have another summer of damage along the shore in the interim, while the bylaw is being drafted."

Seals are just some of the wildlife that call Marlborough's east coast home. Photo: CHLOE RANFORD/LDR

Forest and Bird requested the council introduce a bylaw restricting vehicle access in March last year, Martin said.

It was part of the East Coast Protection Group, which formed after a landslide of concerns about the future of the coastline.

"There are some incredible rock patterns here, and people are driving over them. It's only got worse each year," she said.

Councillor Cynthia Brooks said it was a "significant day" for the council, despite the hard decision to restrict beach access.

"There's a lot of history around vehicle use on the coastline, but it's not the coastline it was three years ago, and it's under threat. It's one of the few wildernesses left in this country."

Brooks said trying to follow correct procedures and gather scientific evidence about the changed coastline, while also "holding back the community", had been "frustrating".

The bylaw would fall under the Land Transport Act.

Enforcement and emergency vehicles would still be allowed on the coast, such as Marlborough's Harbourmaster.

A draft bylaw would be offered up for consideration at the first planning, finance and communities committee of 2020, before going to the public for consideration.

Council staff would also work with the Department of Conservation (DOC) to investigate the cost of barriers.

The New Zealand Police, New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), iwi and DOC would be consulted on the proposal, alongside commercial rock lobster and paua businesses.

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