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Byron Shire
April 12, 2021

Governments giving up on beach-nesting birds?

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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.

Dead pied oystercatcher, South Ballina Beach. Photo Coastal Defenders Network.

‘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).’

Dead pied oystercatcher, South Ballina Beach. Photo Coastal Defenders Network.

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?’

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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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Governments giving up on beach-nesting birds?

Stephen Totterman from Coastal Defenders Network says fatalities are mounting for locally endangered pied oystercatchers at South Ballina Beach as authorities fail to act.


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  1. So do I get this straight. ‘Authorities’ eager to patrol beaches for harmless nudey visitors but don’t give a toss about protecting native wildlife. Well done, NOT.

  2. I think the happy chaps & their dogs should try the ultimate goof-headed act
    by tackling The Nullarbor in their 4Wd killer machines. Get ready to be accosted
    by wild camels & such on the prowl who won’t cop the noise no-how.

  3. Beach driving is a disgrace and needs to be shunned and legislated against like all other sport/ anti conservation activities that harm other species. Its not necessary, our wildlife is already severely threatened by human interference.

  4. The Restructure at National Parks appears to have gone well! Hard not to agree with Mr Totterman.
    It looks like they targeted in there staff cuts the all the senior rangers and rangers that did the conservation work or weekend and holiday law enforcement or maybe anybody else who cared ? Rangers are now so invisible it must be a new job description or a management directive to have no visible presence.

    Pied Oystercatchers are Endangered and Beach Curlews are Critically Endangered.
    2 high priority management actions for Parks are Fox control and visitor exclusion.
    The penalty for their deliberate harm is over $100K and deliberate death over $300K.
    but what is the penalty for death by inaction?
    1st one of the Harrys Hill curlews was killed by a fox – in the nesting area – in the nature reserve! and now a pied oystercatcher was killed by a beach vehicle – in the shorebird nesting area – in a nature reserve !!

    How? What is going on in National Parks ? Are any of the so-called critical management sites actually being managed?

  5. Just because you own A 4WD doesn’t give you a licence to rip up the dunes or the bush . Please think about what you’re doing in the name of fun.

  6. No one wants cars on our beaches. It’s not only the obvious fatalities but the death of tiny creatures in the sand. We have roads for a reason. Even this evening a car started to drive along New Brighton Beach . I asked the driver to leave and he did without a murmur… thankfully


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