Hoonfest continues on South Ballina beaches

Stephen Totterman of the Coastal Defenders Network has been looking at YouTube evidence of the ongoing issues with 4WDs on the beach south of the Richmond River.

Rock driving in Broadwater NP. YouTube screenshot.

In a study of 56 publicly accessible videos shot over the last five years he found numerous cases of people documenting their own bad behaviour, including rock-driving, driving on beach dunes, driving in illegal locations and hooning (speeding, wheel spins and racing).

He also found numerous documented cases of dogs being taken outside dog zones, riding of dirt bikes and quad bikes, and illegal camping.

There are numerous cases of endangered birds being frightened and their nests threatened.

Mr Totterman said in an accompanying email to decision-makers, ‘Only a minority of four wheel drivers record their adventures, few upload videos to the internet, and fewer still publish their videos on YouTube.

‘Therefore the results are not necessarily representative of 4WDs on South Ballina Beach. They do, however, indicate that four wheel driving and camping are popular attractions and four wheel drivers like to bring their dogs.’

Existing enforcement not working

Mr Totterman says the problem is that authorities are failing to control numbers of 4WDs on the beach and will continue to do so while beach driving is allowed.

Police speed test 4WDs on beaches south of Ballina recently. Photo supplied.

‘There was an enforcement blitz on the 3-5 October 2020 long weekend, yet rock driving, dune driving, taking dogs on to the beach and camping continued,’ he said.

He says that the closure of the Keith Hall, Moylans Lane and Patchs Beach 4WD access tracks has not solved the problem, as there are ‘many informal 4WD tracks’ into the beachfront Crown reserve.

Mr Totterman also says there’s a clear correlation between increased 4WD activity and decreased numbers of locally endangered pied oystercatchers, and ‘the only solution is to the negative social and environmental impacts is to lock the beach to 4WDs.’

Traditional owners also concerned

Ballina Bundjalung man Eli Cook, whose family has a very long connection with the area, spoke to Echonetdaily last week about a petition for a Bundjalung Cultural Centre at Ballina. He’s also concerned about the southern beaches being trashed by 4WDs.

‘As part of that petition, me and my brother recently did a walk from Evans Head to South Ballina, over three days. We camped in behind the dunes and what we saw was that those dunes have been demolished, run over, trampled, completely smashed – they’ll never be as they were,’ he said.

Eli Cook. Photo David Lowe.

‘There’s still cars yahooing and donutting all up and down the beach, there’s motorbikes driving all over the dunes, it’s still getting thrashed.’

Of the drivers damaging the beaches he said, ‘It’s people that don’t know better, they’re young and they’ve got flash cars they want to flog for some reason.

‘All of the local people in my opinion who use the beach for fishing and all that sort of stuff, they do the right thing. It’s a shame for those people who miss out, but you’ve got to draw a line in the sand somewhere,’ he said.

‘That South Ballina Beach does need some recovery, it’s been thrashed for a long time.’

Government response

Dune driving on South Ballina Beach. YouTube screenshot.

Echonetdaily sought comment from government authorities about the issues raised above.

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning Industry and Environment – Crown Lands, sent the following bullet points through:

  • Crown Lands has closed the 4WD beach access point at Keith Hall Lane at Keith Hall, and will consult with the community on closing the other access point it manages at Empire Vale Road at South Ballina.
  • Four wheel drivers should abide by the beach access policies of Ballina Shire and Richmond Valley Councils to ensure public safety and protect the environment.
  • These include clear advice on speed restrictions, maintaining distances from pedestrians, not driving above the high tide water mark, avoiding sensitive areas including dunes, and ensuring rubbish is not left behind.
  • Any inappropriate and dangerous 4WD activity should be reported to NSW Police.
  • Crown Lands is working with Ballina Shire Council, Richmond Valley Council and NPWS to manage access to the beach.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) said, ‘NPWS is working with Crown Lands, NSW Police and local Government on the management of 4WD usage in the South Ballina location.’

Map and screenshots courtesy Coastal Defenders Network

More stories about 4WDs on South Ballina Beach

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3 responses to “Hoonfest continues on South Ballina beaches”

  1. Richard Gates says:

    The Coastal Defenders Network and others continue to show that the Ballina to Evans Head Beach is being trashed. No amount of enforcement seems to bring a halt to this problem. It just goes on and on and government fails to act effectively. This is no reflection whatsoever on the folk who do the enforcement job. They do the best they can given the very limited resources given to them.
    The only solution now is to close the whole beach to 4WDs except for agency vehicles charged with responsibility for the beach, and Licensed Professional Fishers.
    The interesting thing is just how many people comment on ‘how much better’ the beach was when it was closed to vehicles just recently. No more having to worry about being run down.
    There are lots of closed beaches in NSW already. The Evans Head to Ballina Beach should be included in the list.
    The notion that driving on the beach somehow brings economic benefit to the community has not been demonstrated. On the contrary there is an argument to be made that closing of the beach will have economic benefit because it will increase in its attractiveness to folks who are not interested in walking along Pitt Street but prefer the serenity and amenity of a beautiful beach. It will also give the beach a chance to recover from the trashing it is now getting. Where are the ghost crab, pippi and bird populations of not-that-long-ago?
    Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc.

  2. Mark says:

    As a 4wder who grew up in the Coffs harbour area and now reside in Brisbane, I often camp at south Ballina due to easy beach driving access. If this was take away, plenty of people just simply wouldn’t go to south Ballina.

    I respect the beach from growing up coastal and there is plenty of people who ruin the fun for the rest of us. More policing will be great – maybe even a permit fee – as long its not overly expensive for tourists.

  3. Close the beach. The 4Wd bunch should take up ‘bull-fighting’ with a knife & fork.
    Animal cruelty… not allowed.

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