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Byron Shire
March 24, 2023

Tourism impacts prompt Broken Head Road changes

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Paul Bibby

Council carparks at Broken Head look set to be closed for much of the summer owing to the risk of fires being started by tourists and illegal campers in the bushy area.

As part of a raft of measures introduced to address issues in Broken Head, councillors voted last Thursday to close its carparks whenever the state government elects to close National Parks in the region.

National Parks across the Northern Rivers have been closed for much of the past month owing to fire risk, and there are few signs they will be reopened any time soon.

Council will also install variable message signs at the entrance to Seven Mile Beach Road to notify visitors of the carpark closures, as well as large, permanent no parking signs along the road, and to restrict parking on the rest to 8pm–5am.

‘It is a very, very dangerous and difficult situation down there,’ one local woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told councillors during the public access session at last week’s meeting.

‘The whole thing is under very serious threat from bushfire’.

‘We’re reliant on rangers to move people along, but there just aren’t enough of them to do so.’

The meeting heard that the immediate bushfire risk posed by tourists was just one of the issues affecting residents living in the vicinity of Seven Mile Beach Rd.

Speeding, camping

Others include: speeding and dust, illegal parking, illegal camping and other anti-social behaviours like littering and defecating in and around the reserve.

Council has tried, for a number of years, to address the issues through compliance blitzes that have resulted in scores of fines.

However, not only do the behaviours continue after the blitz has finished, but there appears to have been an increase in reported incidents over the past two years.

This has been attributed to tourism posts on social media and other online platforms recommending this area as an unspoilt tourist destination. 

One option put forward by residents, councillors and council staff to address the issues, is for the National parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to take over the management of Seven Mile Beach Rd.

Were this to happen, NPWS would almost certainly install a boom gate at the entrance to the road, allowing it to strictly control who can access the park and when they can do so.

Last week’s Council meeting heard that mayor Simon Richardson, and general manager Mark Arnold, had recently met with the NSW Environment Minister, Matt Kean to discuss this option.

‘The minister was very supportive of the idea,’ Cr Richardson told the meeting.

As yet, there has been no official confirmation that NWPS will take over management of the road.

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  1. ‘ the unspoilt private location, known only to locals, who had great respect for the sanctity and privacy of the area, is now desecrated and damaged beyond repair, including the wildlife and access, and increased fire risk. All owing to rampant self aggrandising advertising on social media. Shout outs for this consequence go to one particular, wealthy b-grade actor, recently relocated to Broken Head, who made advertising of the splendour and privacy of Broken Head their full time activity on social media and is singularly responsible for the degradation now experienced. Ironically, it’s with said actors pay roll they can influence a council to control and lock down the region to their own taste. Meanwhile, their crimes against culture in the employ of the entertainment industry are likely to continue unbound.’

  2. umm “and to restrict parking on the rest to 8pm–5am. “?
    Pretty sure that should be “and to restrict parking on the rest to 5am-8pm” otherwise it would be allowing overnight camping.

  3. So a year or so ago, Council put out huge boulders on the road near his place plus NO STOPPING signs to allow Broken Head residents to have their own private beach.
    Rangers were there almost 24/7 writing a ticket for anyone who dared challenge this.
    The Rangers even went as far as to wait for people to pull up.
    As soon as they stopped, they pulled out their ticket writing machines and took photos, punched out tickets -$270 fine thank you.
    For awhile, the Council did the right thing,removed the boulders and signs.
    Now it seems that the wealthy residents of Broken Head have won the day with this blockade back on again.
    If the Byron Shire did the right thing, they would spend some of their millions of $$$$ of rate money on a toilet block and fix the road up.
    Stop making Byron an enclave for the rich and famous.
    Beaches are for people, all of us not some multi millionaires.
    If people are camping illegally, then ticket them, but not families out for a day at the beach.
    This is Australia, not the Riviera or Malibu.The beaches are ours and we will take back our beaches.!!

    • Kevin
      Please be informed before you make incorrect comevts that are defamatory.
      Council made a mistake which had nothing to do with residents. However people remove signs costing rare payers a fortune as soon as they are reinstated.
      Residents that you talk about sober hours each day troubleshooting issues like fires left at Whites and King’s. One of the larger properties down the end of the road not Helmsworth probably saved Brojen Head a hundred times as he prevented campers and moved people on.
      The residents actually drive to Main beach and swim many of them. One of them had a intruder myself off his head trying to enter the property.
      It is simple like everywhere that is nature and beautiful people want it and don’t seem to be able to respect it. There needs to be management plan in place otherwise there will be no Broken Head. There could be priority car spaces for locals and other options. You couldn’t be further from the truth about locals. It is this type of behaviour that preventing measures to be put in place that safeguard what is a biodiversity hotspot.
      We see people cutting down trees to check surf breaks. On a catastrophic fire day when National Park’s were closed ie all the beaches you refer to locals and tourists ignored the ban and still went in. Residents gave us time telling tourists there was a ban on for very good reasons. Kevin you are directing your anger at the wrong people. It is up to National Park’s and Council to work out a strategy that protects the Reserve and the public and manages traffic. The road is so dangerous and soon children will be riding their new bikes up from Caravan Park as we see every year whilst 400 vehicles hurtle past and illegally park.
      There is no evacuation plan.

    • Corrected response to Kevin
      It is so disappointing that people like Kevin write to Echonet Daily so ill informed and almost defamatory.
      Kevin firstly it is the residents that you should be grateful tothat the Reserve is intact as they spend hours watching night time as there are no rangers from National Parks or Council on duty.
      It is a haven for campers out of sight.
      One of the so called “wealthy property managers routinely discourages campers and keeps on eye on the area. People have fires, leave mess and take dogs in.
      The Rocks had nothing to do with residents. It is defamatory to suggest so and then to blame Chris Helmsworth. He wasn’t even there then.
      Council put the rocks there were trying to manage the situation in which nightly campers had fires, defecated and also knocked out barricades stopping vehicles from driving in the beach destroying birds nesting and ruining ecosystems.  Every time compliance tried to put signs up some lovely person costing all ratepayers a fortune ripped them out. This occurred day time as well as rangers couldn’t book cars as the signs were removed.
      Facts :
      Seven Mile Rd is owned by Council however the beaches you love so are the responsibility of National Park. The Reserve is a biodiversity hotspot which means it has a higher ecological status than a National Park’s. The only thing residents and community have done is to express their concern about protecting this area and to put pressure on both stakeholders to address issues that are way out of hand. These issues are also way out of hand in other areas like Brunswick Heads.
      Residents demanded traffic counters as nobody knew how many people were visiting. Figures show 40 percent increase or more but up to 400 cars a day. This is insane. The road has not budget and so is fixed once a year.
      National Park’s mandate is not to promote these beaches as they are high biodiversity areas not normal
      National Parks. This is a significant difference that impacts visitation.
      In the past it was manageable as it could be unregulated but now it is out of control with Jeststar promoting Whites.
      Residents don’t want the road closed they just want to live safely and to have traffic and camping manages effectively as well as the area protected from risks.
      Currently we are very concerned that there is no ability to manage the road. Cars drive dangerously and children with their bikes alongside them.
      There is only official caroarking for about 60 spots and yet hundreds illegally Park.
      If there was a fire or emergency you need to be able to evacuate people. We also have a right to get to and from out properties without being abused or obstructed which is a daily occurrence as
      well as having people come into your property.
      One resident, a female had an intruder a camper that cane into the property off his head.
      There are no rangers available and if they book Byron has millions in unpaid fines as people leave the country and don’t pay.
      Police don’t get there at night as they are too busy.
      Kevin Council shouldn’t be providing nighttime car parking  which facilitated access to a Nature Reserve which is one of our treasured biodiversity hotspots? This is actually contradictory. What are people doing parking there after sunset if there not camping?
      As for toilets this is also totally ignorant. The reason there are no facilities is because once again there is suppposed to be limited parking and this area differently fromBriken Head Beach is a higher ecological status and  it is not a tourism venue -hence no lifeguards etc.
      > There are solutions designated parking spots with spots for locals.
      No parking from 8pm- 5am and anywhere along the road to prevent camping. Fishermen could be issued permits.
      Day time parking only in carparks that need to be formalised and designated.
      Most other beaches are paid parking and yet know we are threatening one of our best assets to people that literally come here pay nothing leave true mess tell their friends and go home.

      If you want your beaches for the future we need management plans that encourage respect of Country and information on the incredible biodiversity that exists and on the importance of adhering to parts for nature and public risk sake..

      Residents have helped tourists that have decided to walk cliffs to get to Brays with no idea of the danger. There is no mobile reception in area which makes it also vulnerable if incidents take place,

      Given the fact that our fire resources are so stretched and conditions are so dire Keven surely having a management plan in place is essential.

      Residents spent hours on the catastrophic fire day when National Parks, Broken Head was closed but stupidly the road accessing  them was open so all the traffic continued to drive the road and insist on parking and going into the Reserve.

      Are we not seeing that half our National Parks are burning at present? How sustainable is it to have hundreds of people and barely a ranger with no water supplies and more people coming to cool off from the conditions?

      There is never going to be enough parking for everyone but what we can do is look at giving preference to locals and creating options like a safe bike and walking path along Seven Mile so people can walk in and enjoy the beaches and learn more about the area they are experiencing. It is outrageous to be attacking rangers they are ensuring that manageable numbers of people are parking so that if an emergency vehicle needs to get in there it can.
      There are dogs routinely taking into the Reserve. One group took a fire extinguisher and when asked why they said they were making a commercial but would put the fire out! Who Kevin do you think is keeping an eye on these issues. It always amazes me it is the people you least expect are writing submissions and actually striving to keep Byron’s greatest asset nature intact. With climate change on our doorstep we may have a different tourism scene but one things for sure Nature is still our greatest assets and sets us apart and must be protected and valued.
      It is so disappointing that these type of ignorant responses come from people especially after so many hours of time has been given to actually protecting them so you can enjoy them.

  4. Boom gate will not last long it will be ripped out, so educational approach rather than elitist approach is preferable .there has been pressure to restrict accessibility to a chosen few for several years now for the wrong reasons! But the road does need to be restricted during high fire conditions which will likely prevail for the next few months at least. Close the Parks during high risk periods but closing public roads will not fly except as a temporary measure option, if anything closing down access to public amenities to the general public but opening it to the wealthy landowners only, will result in the opposite effect human nature being what it is. Educate and inlist users don’t set up an us and them situation. It will fail!

  5. We have a major problem with illegal camping on Tweed Coast road between Pottsville and Wooyung. Not only do they set up camp anywhere, but they are guilty of cutting down trees, lighting fires, defacating and leaving rubbish everywhere. What does the Council do??? Nothing! Signs and warnings have little effect. On the spot fines and community service are a better solution but the rangers are very rarely seen. So good luck with Broken Head


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