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April 22, 2021

Coastal Defenders respond to NPWS

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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’.

4WD tracks into the dunes in Broadwater National Park, 14 November 2020. Photo Coastal Defenders Network.

A NPWS spokesperson stated in the Echo on 11 November that:

  • ‘The department manages Richmond River Nature Reserve, which is at the northern end of South Ballina Beach… Four-wheel-driving is not permitted on the beach adjacent to Richmond River Nature Reserve.’
  • ‘NPWS rangers and field officers are onsite in Richmond River Nature Reserve and Broadwater National Park most weekends.’
  • ‘NPWS has issued over 300 fines in the past two years for various offences in Richmond River Nature Reserve and Broadwater National Park.’

Passing the buck?

Stephen Totterman told Echonetdaily that NPWS is ‘passing the buck’ to other authorities regarding the 17 km long section of beach between Richmond River Nature Reserve and Broadwater National Park, which adjoins a narrow Crown Reserve.

He said, ‘Actually the NPWS have managed the Richmond River Area Pied Oystercatcher Protection Program from 1997 to 2013 and Richmond River Area Shorebird Protection Program from 2014 to the present, and so are responsible for shorebird protection along the entire length of South Ballina Beach.’

4WD and wheel tracks on the beach in Richmond River Nature Reserve, 15 November 2020. Photo Coastal Defenders Network.

In regard to the NPWS claim of being present ‘most weekends’, Mr Totterman said of the dates he has observed in the latter half of this year, ‘I haven’t seen any NPWS rangers and field officers anywhere on South Ballina Beach on 5, 11, or 19 July; 8 August, 27 September; 25, 31 October or 1, 7,14-15 November.

‘I haven’t seen any NPWS rangers and field officers anywhere on Airforce Beach on 4, 11, 18 July; 1-2 August; 24-25, 31 October or 1, 7, 14-15 November.’

Fines not working

Mr Totterman said the statement from the NPWS about fines is misleading because enforcement actions have not sufficiently changed driver behaviour, with the 4WD problem worsening every weekend.

Beaches being loved to death by 4WD enthusiasts? Some of the vehicles on Seven Mile Beach, 14 November 2020. Photo Coastal Defenders Network.

The primary cause of this problem is the increasing demand for beach driving,’ he said.

‘Will the NPWS and other authorities allow ‘invasive’ 4WDs to take over our beaches?’ asked Mr Totterman.

‘I reaffirm my claim that the NPWS are not taking firm action to protect threatened beach nesting birds from vehicle-based recreation on Airforce Beach and South Ballina Beach, including Broadwater NP and Richmond River Nature Reserve,’ he said.

‘They have not shown leadership on this issue.’


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Pied Oystercatcher

Coastal Defenders respond to NPWS

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'.


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  1. Hard not to conclude the NPWS respondent either lied, or thought no-one would know, or both.
    Well played Mr Totterman! What else is exaggerated? Over 300 fines in less than 2 years is a lot without changing driver behaviour.
    Now to try to get them to actually do, what they claimed they do.
    Having a Ranger rostered on for weekend duty doesn’t mean they actually leave the office. Especially if conservation of endangered shorebirds and law enforcement aren’t national parks management priorities !
    Never seen a field officer doing law enforcement – nor is it their job description.


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