S Sorrensen’s Here & Now #139: Oh what a feeling

Here & Now 139.

Here & Now 139.

Broadwater Beach. Friday, 4pm

 A white Toyota 4WD is speeding straight for me. Collision course. But I’m not moving. I’m staring it down, like it’s a charging rhino.

Don’t blink. Don’t move. Mind over metal.

Toyota may be the go-to vehicle for your working man or jihadi terrorist – an unstoppable lump of heavy machinery – but I’m not budging.

You see, I’m on a beach. Yes, a beach. I’m not on a slippery building site wearing a hard hat, or in a desert storm wearing a kalishnokov, I’m on a beach in a national park. I’m a bloke in a sarong and I’m standing my ground against this pippi-crushing mechanical monster. I’m angry.

The Toyota churns through sand and over coffee rock. A motorbike overtakes the Toyota, using an outcrop of coffee rock to get air. The rider, garbed in helmet and brand names, gives the thumbs up to the Toyota driver.

Coffee rock is a feature of this stretch of beach. According to scientists, coffee rock is a relic from an earlier age, like 60,000 years ago, when sea levels were lower and these dunes nurtured swamps and lakes. Organic matter and layers of time bound the sand together, and this soft brown rock was formed.

Locals, who have been here a lot longer than scientists, reckon it’s the creation work of Dirawong (the goanna spirit) and the Rainbow Serpent.

If I were to take my death gaze from the Toyota and look south, I could see where Dirawong, exhausted after all that creation, and bitten by the sometimes cranky Rainbow Serpent, lies with his hurting head in the healing waters of the Pacific.

I would also see, less than a hundred metres away, three more 4WDs, an esky and a dog ensconced among the coffee rock.

But I’m not shifting my gaze from the approaching Toyota. I have my feet firmly planted next to recently smashed coffee rock. The tread marks of a fat Goodyear etched into the broken rock marks the start of a new year for some brainless buffoon with a turbo charge.

The Toyota spooks a pair of Pied Oystercatchers. They scurry away, orange beaks and legs flashing like a warning. These birds are endangered. They lay their eggs in shallow scrapes in the sand. Given the trashing this beach is getting – the busted coffee rock, the deep furrows in the sand, the tyre tracks up and over the dunes – I reckon this pair of Pied Oystercatchers is probably very much feeling its vulnerable status.

What pleasure do people get out of vandalising a beach? Can’t beaches, especially national park beaches, be exempt from the car obsession which grips our culture? Will it take a person being run over as she lies on a beach towel to bring some sanity to this sea shore?

Sadly, it is legal to drive a car on this beach. But it is illegal to ride a motorbike here. It is illegal to drive over the coffee rock. It is illegal to drive up the dunes. It is illegal to drive through the Pied Oystercatchers. It is illegal for a vehicle to go within 15 metres of an un-vehicled person.

But, none of it is enforced.

The Toyota is almost upon me. I don’t flinch. At the last moment, the Toyota veers around me. The driver is a young bloke, Fourex in hand.

‘Look at this mess,’ I say, pointing to the broken coffee rock, as he passes.

He looks at the wrecked rock, a puzzled look flitting across his face. Then he hits the accelerator, the spinning Goodyears sending up a plume of white sand peppered with ground coffee rock.

Maybe Richmond Valley Council and NPWS should pull their fingers out and protect this beach by enforcing their rules.



7 responses to “S Sorrensen’s Here & Now #139: Oh what a feeling”

  1. Andrew says:

    Hear hear, S – had exactly the same experience at Broady a few Christmases ago. Together with the discarded trash, it was very sobering and upsetting to see this beautiful part of our planet treated this way. Agree – RVC &/or NPWS should enforce the regs. and go further to ban all vehicles from this beach!

  2. Steven Frank says:

    Echo, where did you find this guy??

  3. Joe Monks says:

    Councils are under increasing financial pressure engineered by liberal and labor governments.

    This puts the environment and public services at the mercy of Council ceo’s espousing liberal philosophy.

    Wait for it. You may well see Blackwater contractors standing guard on our beaches with assault rifles.

    The point I make is that the plan is to emasculate public services to provide an excuse to employ contractors.

    The other feature of this story is the demonstration of red neck mentality that manifests as four wheel drives, big dogs and environmental/cultural destruction.

  4. Dr Richard Gates says:

    4WDs on Broadwater Beach and also the beach to the south ending at Airforce Beach, Evans Head has been a problem for many years with lots of political interference preventing closure. As other local government areas shut their beaches for good scientific and social reasons there is an increasing concentration of vehicles on these beaches many from QLD where access is denied. As usual the yahoos wreck it for those who drive with consideration for others, a classic example of The Tragedy of the Commons playing out yet again to the detriment of all.
    There is little doubt that the heavy pressure of vehicles on the beach is affecting not only the Pied Oyster Catcher but also the pippie population and other high energy beach biota. The beach ain’t what it was 60 years ago when you rarely saw a vehicle on the beach and pippies and ghost crabs were abundant. Of course over harvesting hasn’t helped but vehicles figure prominently in the trashing of beach ecology.

    There is only one solution to the current problem and that is beach closure to 4WDs. National Parks is hardly in a position to do anything as it has been so badly gutted by government cutbacks. And then of course there’s Richmond Valley Council which is almost devoid of any sense of environmental matters and the importance of protection of the wonderful assets which bring people to its local government area. You only have to look at the trashing of the Main Beach at Evans Head with dredged spoil loaded with oyster shell to know it has no idea what it’s doing or allowing to happen until it’s too late. Talk about ‘shiting in your own nest’!

  5. bob says:

    Oh get over yerselves….the beach is fine..its a free country…therell be a storm and itll come back fine..there are plenty of beaches for u to go and walk..why cant they have a beach to have fun..oh jasus..sorry..this is the new australia..”fun” will be sanctioned by special interest envronazis and the state govt..seriously take up knitting and occupy yr narrow minded brain…

  6. bob says:

    “The Tragedy of the Commons”… right there….snobs…say no more..we know whats best for u…ps i dont even 4 wheel drive but ill defend there right to have a bit a fun..

  7. Peter Woods says:

    There is absolutly no regulation at all along that stretch of beach. Many times there are dogs on the beach hoons mainly with QLD rego testing their hotted up 4WD climbing the dunes people camping I cannot believe this is actually a NP. I have no problem with local 4WD people driving on the beach but surely we can organise a permit system for locals and not allow these stupid Qld ers to come and rape and pillage our beaches any longer. What good are rules if they are not inforced at least at the busiest time of year.
    I am sure if it was happening in Sydney or Newcastle it would be different maybe we could get some firework money to help NP police the beaches?

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