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Ballina Council acts to protect southern beaches

Panoramic view of the 4WD track leading to Patchs Beach. Photo David Lowe.

After weeks of sustained pressure, councillors at the last Ballina Shire Council meeting voted unanimously to close the 4WD access track at Patchs Beach. They also agreed to write to the state government to request that South Ballina Beach be closed to the general public driving 4WD vehicles.

Councillor Eoin Johnston said that council had been frustrated by a lack of response from Crown Lands (which also holds jurisdiction over some of the affected areas), so moved a Notice of Motion to close the beach access point which Ballina Council controls, at Patchs Beach.

He said it was the only practical thing council could do to demonstrate its determination to address the 4WD problem.

Chicken or egg?

Patchs beach. Photo David Lowe.

Some councillors expressed their frustration with the state government’s failure to assist council by limiting access.

Other speakers suggested that council needed to clearly show its position in order to encourage the state government to support them.

Cr Keith Williams seconded the motion to close the beach. He said, ‘It’s clear there are significant environmental impacts from the irresponsible behaviour of some users, but also from sheer numbers of vehicles on the beach.’

Cr Phillip Meehan spoke about public safety and the destruction of pied oystercatcher habitat. ‘We need to save the area from the open slather,’ he said. ‘On a busy day like the other Sunday, it’s quite diabolical. We shouldn’t be tolerating it.’

Phil Hilliard made a submission on behalf of the Fisherman’s Coop. He spoke against the motion, saying ‘the short term effect of restriction will mean short term costs.’

Risks to families

Patchs Beach local Rebecca Howard spoke in favour of the motion. She said that as a parent with a young family, she relied heavily on the beach, but it was ‘very dangerous ‘ at times, especially with the 4WD track adjacent to the walking track.

Family walking on Patchs Beach. Photo David Lowe.

She said locals had noticed that many birds had returned and the bush began to regenerate during the COVID-19 lockdown, when 4WDs were not on the beach.

Ms Howard also said there had been more beach fishing, and it had been safer for families to be on the beach and play cricket and volleyball knowing there weren’t 4WDs coming and going at speed.

Kids could run freely, which meant less concerns for parents.

‘The big issue for us is safety, for our community,’ she said. ‘Families like ours go to the beach daily, that’s our place, and we’d like it to be a safe area.’

Cr Williams agreed, saying ‘The community of Patchs Beach should be able to use the beach in front of the village without the fear of being run over.’

What next?

Councillors acknowledged that other 4WD entrances to the southern beaches would remain open at this stage, but agreed something had to be done immediately, although, as Cr Johnston put it, ‘This is not going to be a solve-all.’

Cr Benjamin Smith spoke from the Wardell perspective, saying he has been ‘generally supportive’ of closing the beach but there hasn’t been consensus on it until now. ‘People have seen the beach closed through COVID and are happy with the result,’ he said. ‘This is an appropriate measure but we may need to tweak it in future.’

Councillors Sharon Cadwallader and Jeff Johnson spoke in support of the motion.

Cr Cadwallader said, ‘I think most of us have seen what happens with these 4WDs hooning around. Well now we’re doing something, and I think it’s great.’

Existing Patchs Beach 4WD entrance. Photo David Lowe.

First step

Cr Williams said, ‘This is a great first step to represent our bonafides. If we focus our efforts on closing that access, it would be a start to closing the rest of the beach. We would be defending our community and the community of Patchs and Wardell.

‘This is a great first step but we really need to push that beach closure if we can,’ he concluded.

The motion was amended with Cr Johnston‘s consent to write to the State Government to request the closure of the beach to 4WDs.

It was clarified that the closure would not include authorised persons, such as Jali traditional owners and professional fishers.

 

Photos David Lowe

 


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11 responses to “Ballina Council acts to protect southern beaches”

  1. selene richards says:

    Great news. Hopefully Byron Shire Council will move to protect Belongil Estuary migratory bird breeding site and enforce compliance of all laws at beaches.

  2. Trude Helm says:

    How can we help the hoons who seem to need these outlets for their “sport”? They are obviously privileged folks who have the money to buy these 4WD vehicles… Is there some re-education process we can offer?
    I’m all for closing the beaches to vehicles… this destroyed the beaches on my island home and there was no stopping them. The beach is now an ugly mess of tracks, noise and danger. No chance of a beautiful beachwalk there! You have to climb in and out of deep ruts all across the beach.
    Now, can we also address the hooning noisy jetskis in Ballina? They are an absolute nightmare. No one can take a quiet walk along the river mouth without the loud non mufflered noise of these unnecessary vehicles. These are expensive machines. It’s a pity people with such advantage should indulge their wealth in the destruction of other people’s right to quiet enjoyment of the environment!

  3. Michael says:

    I don’t understand why there is no middle ground anymore. It seems that we are going down the route of an all or nothing society, with this being another typical example.
    South Ballina is a great example of a beach that is still free to travel on. Unfortunately it seems that everyone will have to pay for the sins of a few once again. This is due to representatives in Local and State Governments looking for a quick easy fix to quiet the loud minority, instead of putting the required processes in place to come up with a solution that is fair and equitable to all.
    Surely starting with a permit system that is subsidised for local traffic would be a good place to start. This might at least slow down the flow of visiting traffic.
    Once we go down the road of closing beaches to all, it becomes very hard to get those rights back

  4. Mick & Deb Stacey says:

    We agree with everything you say Trude, but we can add to this, all the hoons on their motorised & road bikes, on the bike/walkways and pavements around town, even riding through arcades on River Street, the place has become a galactic zoo since COVID-19, it seems the council and the police don’t want to know about it, and my god have we tried.

  5. Steve Cooper says:

    I have been driving carefully, respectfully and safely on said beach for 20 years. While there is a point to the close proximity of families and children at the Patches Beach track, the main issue is the sheer increase of numbers of vehicles, often driven by convoys of hoons, and not local folk. Once again a minority has been allowed by the authorities to continually and regularly desecrate our beach/beaches. Try finding an authority to enforce the law on a weekend to stop the nonsense, it’s virtually impossible. So, the best answer council can find is close the beach and make everyone pay. So small minded and illogical. A permit system should at least be trialled for obvious reasons. A pathetic decision by all involved….it sucks!

  6. Emily Stewart says:

    Ballina Shire Councilors voted unanimously last week to close the 4WD access track at Patch’s Beach. They also will request from the state government that South Ballina Beach be closed to 4WD vehicles driven by the general public.

  7. Robert Gray says:

    Your so called “hoons” are the younger p platers (usually in the local communities) and the generation that have grown up without consequence to their actions. Choosing to close the beach means the people who are responsible and do want go to these place wont be able to. Have the 4wd nsw committee been consulted on the issue?

  8. Richard says:

    What a load of crap. How about the council gets the Police to do their job and book the hoons.
    As for beach damage, you are joking right…… 1 storm and you won’t even see wheel tracks anymore. Take a look at the beaches that see far more traffic than this one, it isn’t an issue. Tides will wash away any tracks.
    Obviously if dune damage is an issue , that comes down to the Police doing a thing called Policing and fining people for driving where they shouldn’t.
    Fraser Island, Moreton Island, Strandbroke Island, Briebie Island, Noosa NORTH shore, Rainbow beach, all places that would have more traffic than here and yet these issues market an issue.

    Grow up council and start helping people to get out there and enjoy life instead of locking gates on everything.

  9. Alan G says:

    I have been fishing South Ballina Beach for over 35 years and fish about 20 weekends a year doing what I love and is very relaxing and therapeutic after a long week of work.
    Their is only a couple of spots you can drive to and walk over to the beech so 95 percent of the beech is not accessible unless you have a 4 wheel drive.
    Richards comments are totally correct they did a survey on Frazer Is 20 years ago and found 4WD did no damage to the beach at all.
    What we need to do is fine the shit out of the ones doing the wrong thing and leave the rest of us alone
    As for the pippi birds their is more their now then their was 35 years ago
    Please just Police the beech so we can all enjoy it

  10. Carl says:

    Yea good on you. I drive down the beach, I follow the rules I stay at the caravan park, I have dinner at the RSL, coffee at the local cafes, oysters from Richmond Oysters, I fuel up in town.
    Not anymore by the sound of it.

  11. Darryl says:

    Yeah that will be the end for me 3 holidays a year in that area caravan park fees, fuel, bait, groceries and a lot of eat out meals at all different places, but the beach access is the attraction so no more trips there i will go where i feel welcome, not dictated to

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