Ballina Shire Council must immediately implement ‘locals-only’ permits for 4WD access on all beaches in South Ballina, local MP Tamara Smith says.
In a forthright response to the growing issue of holidaying drivers chewing up the region’s dunes, Ms Smith said it was ‘extremely disappointing’ that Crown Lands and the Council had been unable to come up with a long term solution to what was a ‘severe public safety issue’.
‘I will not stand by and wait for somebody to be hurt before action is taken and I am calling on Ballina Shire Council to introduce a permit system immediately for locals and Aboriginal members of our community only,’ Ms Smith said.
‘Ideally, Crown Lands would have resolved this by now but they have not and as it is a residential safety issue primarily and I think that Council needs to step up and be the responsible adult in this situation.
Richmond police detected a large number of 4WD vehicles on Ballina’s beaches during Operation Thor over the October long weekend.
‘The enforcement operation over the October long weekend was disturbingly insightful,’ Ms Smith said.
‘The police were on patrol only a few hours at a time over three days yet 150 vehicles were stopped for random breath tests. That’s more than 50 vehicles a day on the beach just in those short windows of time! Sorry, that is outrageous.’
‘Our beaches are for residents and visitors to enjoy walking and swimming and hand fishing and we all accept that locals may responsibly drive down to fish.
‘But driving up and down the beach and the dune bashing that we see is crazy and the sheer numbers of out-of-towners on the beach is out of control and will only increase with ‘staycations’.
Ms Smith said the environmental impacts from this type of vehicle intensity were well known, including threats to the already endangered Pied Oyster Catchers as well as the dune system, and of course impacts on Aboriginal heritage.
‘How great would it be for Jali or another local Aboriginal led enterprise to start running low key Aboriginal cultural tours along the beach.’
‘I have seen with my own eyes resident’s fences knocked down to make way for dune tracks for beach bashing. We have nothing against people loving to drive their 4WD’s but our beaches are not 4WD Parks or tracks.’
‘There is a business opportunity for somebody in the hinterland in an appropriate setting to create a 4WD Park and tracks but it sure as heck should not be at South Ballina beaches.’
More stories about 4WDs on South Ballina Beach
At today's Ballina Council meeting, Cr Keith Williams is going to urge council to write to the NSW Minister for Crown Lands about South Ballina beach, which has recently been closed to public 4WD access.
The closure of South Ballina Beach and Evans Head to 4WDs and other vehicles has been met with a mixed response.
The debate about the future of the beaches south of Ballina is heating up again as councils and concerned citizens grapple with the ongoing issue of 4WD-related damage.
Stephen Totterman from Coastal Defenders Network said the National Parks and Wildlife Service's response to his concerns about 4WD impacts on the pied oystercatcher population on the beaches south of Ballina is 'unsatisfactory'.
In the first of a two part series, the Greens MP for Ballina, Tamara Smith, talks about some of the big issues in her electorate.