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Byron Shire
March 3, 2024

Recreational 4WDs to be phased out on Ballina beaches?

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4WD tracks all over Seven Mile Beach recently. Photo supplied.

Ballina Shire Council has resolved to address the increasing safety risks posed by 4WDs on Seven Mile Beach in Lennox Head, which is the last remaining vehicle access point in the shire.

A report to Ballina Council on the Seven Mile 4WD Beach Access Policy showed that the number of 1 day permits increased by 107 per cent over the past 12 months, from 1,905 to 3,945. The total number of all types of permits sold in 2023 was 4,941, compared to 2,690 in 2022.

This increase in permit sales has coincided with an increasing number of complaints about conflicts with other beach users, including walkers, dogs and horses.

Greens Cr Kiri Dicker says peer reviewed academic studies over the past three decades have shown that 4WDs have a detrimental impact on beach biodiversity, including nesting sea turtles, shorebirds, and macroinvertebrates such as crabs, worms and pipis.

Cr Kiri Dicker speaks to Dr Thomas Schlacher at Critical Conversations seminar, Lennox Head. Photo David Lowe.

This was the topic of a public seminar delivered by Dr Thomas Schlacher Professor of Marine Science from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Lennox Head earlier this year.

The latest resolution adopted by Ballina Council will see the removal of 1, 7 and 30-day passes, with only 6 and 12 month passes available to purchase.

Instead of the current permit machines, beach users will have the purchase permits at the Ballina Council administration building, where they will be required to read and acknowledge some basic information on beach driving rules and etiquette.

Council will also explore the option of installing an automated gate at the beach entrance to prevent people without permits from accessing the beach.

At its latest meeting, Ballina councillors acknowledged that with the growing number of families moving to Lennox Head and the fact that 4WDs now account for 20 per cent of all vehicle sales in Australia, Seven Mile Beach would come increasingly congested and dangerous for beach users.

Council therefore committed to phasing out 4WD access to Seven Mile Beach by 2028.
A separate Notice of Motion to seek to re-open South Ballina Beach to 4WDs was defeated.

The revised policy will now be placed on public exhibition for a period of 28 days to gather feedback on the proposed changes.

Ballina Cr Kiri Dicker. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Dicker comments

Ballina Cr Kiri Dicker said, ‘There is no doubt that 4WDing on beaches is a hot topic in the Ballina Shire with many strong opinions.

‘Council ultimately felt that with permit sales almost doubling in the past 12 months, amounting to almost 10,000 vehicle movements annually, the risks that 4WDs pose to humans, animals and wildlife were simply too great.

‘Council proposes that moving forward, 6 or 12-month passes will be available for purchase from the Council administration building and that purchasers will be required to undertake some mandatory training on beach etiquette and rules.

‘It is believed that this will dramatically reduce the number of 4WDs on our beaches, making it a more enjoyable experience for everyone,’ said Cr Dicker. ‘Most importantly, we also heard from our community that many people want to see the beach permanently closed to 4WDs.

‘While this will not happen immediately, we committed to eventually phasing out recreational 4WDing on our beaches by 2028, with exceptions for certain users, including commercial fishermen, Indigenous people on country, people with disabilities and wildlife carers.’

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2 COMMENTS

  1. 2028 or NEVER !
    ….Or which ever causes the least political problems, and requires the least chance of having to act, think or have a coherent policy.
    Cheers, G”)

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