The repeated killing of dune vegetation along a large stretch of the Kingscliff Beach foreshore, planted and nurtured over the years by Dunecare volunteers, has sparked Tweed Shire Council into taking strong, in-your-face action.
Previous moves to crack down on the ongoing dune vandalism in front of the upmarket Marine Parade, such as writing to landowners and erecting screens and smaller signs warning of the vandalism and penalties, have simply not worked.
Earlier this month, new plantings growing behind fencing and signage (erected after the extensive destruction of dune vegetation in 2012) were also destroyed, forcing staff last week to recommend the much larger signs in a bid to deter the continued vandalism.
Council will now erect large 3-metre by 2.4-metre signs immediately in front of the 180-metre stretch of the foreshore at Marine Parade where the dune vegetation has been destroyed to encourage the reporting of such vandalism by locals and visitors alike.
Council rangers will also conduct random inspections and ongoing monitoring of the affected area, in front of the popular coastal esplanade and tourist strip, which is also home to millionaire retirees.
Councillors at their last meeting unanimously backed the staff recommendation to erect signs at intervals along the stretch of coastline where volunteers with the help of Council staff had planted and maintained dune vegetation.
Cr Carolyn Byrne left the chamber and did not vote, citing a non-pecuniary significant interest in that she is a resident of Marine Parade and known to owners and residents there.
Cr Gary Bagnall also did not vote, having left the meeting earlier after a heated debate with fellow councillors on other issues.
Staff in their report said strong action was needed because of the repeated and wilful nature of the vandalism and erecting the large signs both discouraged illegal activity in the dunes and encouraged reporting of it.
They recommended restoration works with additional tree plantings in the affected area in conjunction with Dunecare volunteers as well as the ongoing monitoring and random inspections.
The moves by Council in the past 10 years to curb the ongoing vandalism on the foreshore in front of what some locals describe as ‘millionaires row’ have proved ineffective.
Council staff say recent erosion events ‘highlighted the vulnerability of this section of
coastline to potentially catastrophic coastal erosion’ and that the vegetation mitigated those effects.
It also cuts down the impact of salt-laden winds on coastal infrastructure and properties and provides habitat for wildlife.
In 2000, a large regulatory sign was erected along the foreshore at Kingscliff following foreshore vegetation vandalism, but that was removed after a Council decision in 2004 when the restored section had regrown.
In 2005, Council resolved to ‘condemn’ the unauthorised destruction of coastal, riparian and native vegetation across the shire ‘which is apparently motivated by the objective of providing better access to views or greater development potential of the subject land’.
It also resolved to erect signs and screens around cleared areas to try to deter vandalism.
Staff say other recent examples of Council’s response to illegal vegetation clearing on public land have included erection of shade-screen structures along the Salt and Casuarina foreshores where those responsible had not been identified.
Legal action was also taken recently against a Pottsville resident for foreshore clearing and a Fingal Head landowner was ordered to restore a section of bushland that had been illegally cleared.
Following further vandalism on the Kingscliff foreshore, Council decided in June 2012 to write to Marine Parade property owners asking for any information on the culprits, erect a dune fence and signage and warn that the larger signs would be erected if vandalism continued.
However, all that was also ignored by the vandals earlier this year when they struck again on the replanted vegetation behind the new signs where at least 15 well-established plants had been broken off and quite a number of newly planted trees had been pulled from the ground to ensure they didn’t survive.
That forced the hand of Council staff to take much stronger action to erect the new large signs above head height on posts immediately landward of the dunes, which will be highly visible to nearby residents and others.