Putting the brakes on beach hoons

7:29 pm on 5 November 2020

Robyn Busby has been trying to stop vehicles hooning down Makorori Beach for 30 years.

Makorori residents' speeding concerns - Robyn Rogers, Pat Seymour, Richard Rogers, Phil Evans, Ray Dalton, Paul Apperley.

Makorori residents' speeding concerns - Robyn Rogers, Pat Seymour, Richard Rogers, Phil Evans, Ray Dalton, Paul Apperley. Photo: Liam Clayton/ Gisborne Herald/ LDR

"It's an accident waiting to happen," she said as her neighbours described vehicles "ripping" through the middle of families picnicking on the beach.

Busby said she had raised concerns about vehicles on Makorori Beach in three 10-year Gisborne District Council plans but, along with other residents, felt they were not being heard.

A petition with the signatures of 44 residents was handed to Tawhiti-Uawa ward councillor Pat Seymour on Monday.

It calls for the protection of their "beach, wildlife, native plants and whānau".

Those behind the petition want vehicles to be prohibited from the beach, unless launching a boat, and for the dunes to be protected.

Makorori Beach resident Richard Rogers said at a time when the dunes were already under stress from rising sea levels, motorbikes were being driven down the beach and riders were jumping their machines off the dunes.

"We need to start treating this beach with the respect and veneration it deserves," he said.

"We should make it a people's beach where they can come to swim, surf, dive, run, walk and relax without fear of being hurt by vehicles being driven recklessly on the beach."

They are seeking a bylaw to ban vehicles but as a temporary fix are calling for educational signage this summer.

Seymour said the issue came to a head last summer, prompting residents to organise community meetings attended by council staff and Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency.

"The council has an obligation to protect the environment as well as to protect the community," Seymour said.

A motorcycle beach racing club had council consent to hold events on the beach and as the club bikers adhered to the conditions of their consent, residents did not have an issue with this.

An action in the council's agenda last week asked staff to acknowledge a deputation by Makorori residents advising a bylaw was "urgently needed" to prevent vehicles driving on the foreshore and sand dunes to ensure public safety.

Seymour asked for an update at the full council meeting on 29 October, saying work on a bylaw should also consider Anaura Bay, where there were concerns about the effect of vehicles on nesting dotterels.

"It is a wider piece of work but it is something that this council should face up to," she said.

Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said the bylaw would need to be considered, alongside other priorities of work.

"This particular action item is closing that loop back to them, saying that the councillors heard them and in terms of next steps we will need to consider that."

Thatcher Swann said they could commit to putting together a paper outlining options, and there was a dune education programme that included signage "in the pipeline".

A "bigger discussion" around what a bylaw was trying to achieve, and the monitoring, enforcement and accountability associated with new bylaws could take place in the new year.

Many district and regional councils are looking at restrictions on vehicle access at beaches due to concerns over pedestrian safety and the environment.

no metadata

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.