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’.
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.’
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.
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.’
More stories about 4WDs on South Ballina Beach
An attempt to enlarge the list of approved 4WD beach users allowed to access South Ballina Beach failed to get the numbers to progress at the last Ballina Shire Council meeting.
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'.