Stephen Totterman from Coastal Defenders Network says fatalities are mounting for locally endangered pied oystercatchers at South Ballina Beach as authorities fail to act.
In a letter to all parties who hold a jurisdiction and/or duty of care for the area, he said, ‘On 1 November 2020 I was on South Ballina Beach to collect evidence against vehicle-based recreation.
‘As usual, there were dogs everywhere, some 4WDs “hooning” and fresh 4WD and motorbike tracks in the dunes at Broadwater NP.
‘Then, I found a dead oystercatcher, run over 3.5 km north of Boundary Creek.’
Previous Coastal Defenders Network research has indicated mortality rates rising from vehicle strikes.
Mr Totterman asks, ‘Why does the State Government spend tens of thousands of dollars annually on oystercatcher conservation at South Ballina (as noted in my complaint of 11 June 2020) and then allow 4WDs to run over these endangered birds?’
Dogs, 4WDS and oystercatchers don’t mix
The Coastal Defenders Network says that although it’s long been known that domestic dogs are a ‘huge problem’ for pied oystercatchers on South Ballina Beach, state and local government authorities have failed to prevent 4WD owners from bringing domestic dogs onto the beach.
Mr Totterman said, ‘On the October 2019 long weekend, I complained to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Rangers at South Ballina that there were dogs and 4WDs on the beach within Richmond River Nature Reserve as well as north of the 4WD access, where vehicles are prohibited.
‘The rangers said it was not their area of responsibility (they had only visited Mobbs Bay).’
He argues that politicians continue to allow 4WDs to ‘wreck the beach’ because there is a perception that a considerable number of voters want beach driving to continue.
‘Never mind the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, which anyhow is a ‘toothless tiger’ in failing to recognise human recreation disturbance as a Key Threatening Process.’
Mr Totterman said the recent silence from the NSW NPWS has been ‘deafening’.
He suggests that that police enforcement blitz over the 3-5 October long weekend was only ‘window dressing’ and has done nothing to address the ongoing 4WD problem, with the NSW NPWS being conspicuously absent.
‘Who really wants cops on the beach?’ asks Mr Totterman. ‘And, how could they have stopped the oystercatcher being run over on 1 November 2020?’
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'.