Beach vehicle barrier angers surfers
PĀ MAI TŌ REO
Anew barrier blocking vehicle access onto Ocean Beach has upset surfers who say they’ve been using 4WDs on the beach for decades to get to the best surf breaks. Hastings District Council installed a barrier last week near the surf life saving club, blocking public vehicle access onto the beach, after residents and local hapu¯ raised concerns about hoons and vehicles damaging the coastal environment. Ocean Beach resident Andy Lowe said the problem had been getting worse with people ripping up the dunes and even sacred sites. “No one has concerns with surfers or fishermen going down but it has turned into a race track.” He said videos on YouTube and websites were becoming more common with people visiting the area and taking motor bikes or vehicles onto the beach. “They have been ripping up wa¯hi tapu sites and burial grounds.” However, surfers say they are being punished for other people’s bad behaviour, and the move is creating “double standards” as residents who live next to the beach can still drive onto the beach from private access points. Surfer Aaron Greaves, from Hastings, said he had been surfing there for about 25 years. He said without vehicle access it would take hours to walk to surf spots at the northern end of the beach, which was not viable. Greaves said there had to be a better way forward that did not punish people who had treated the beach with respect for years. He said issuing permits, and a key, to beachgoers who did not misuse the beach was a good option and money from permits could go towards work on the dunes and the beach. A council spokeswoman said people could still park in the car park or in the nearby reserve and walk to the beach. “Local landowners, in particular, were extremely concerned about the damage being done to the fragile coastal ecology and wildlife habitat on their land as well as antisocial driver behaviour on the beach.” Part of the public access to Ocean Beach goes over Ma¯ori land and the landowners allow that access, the council confirmed. Despite the new barrier, no by-law prohibits vehicles or motor bikes from going on the beach. That means you cannot be fined for taking a vehicle or motor bike on the beach as long as you keep to a 20km/h speed limit. Another surfer, who did not want to be named, said it would be a disaster to lose vehicle access at Ocean Beach. “People use that beach for their release. You go out there and get out on the water and it is a good mental health release.” He said there had not been any signs put up by the council explaining the move or even a statement online. The council confirmed it would put up a sign soon near the vehicle barrier. Another surfer, who did not want to be named, said it was creating “double standards” as other residents who had private access could still drive on the beach. There have also been disputes reported between residents and beach goers, such as locks being cut off after being placed on gates to stop vehicles. Ocean Beach Surf Life Saving Club has vehicle access to the beach through an existing locked gate. The council said the barrier project included Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and the Department of Conservation. When approached by Hawke’s Bay Today, they said they were not involved.