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Waimārama Beach: Council to float permanent ban of vehicles on beach

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Limestone boulders were in place over summer preventing vehicle access to Waimarama Beach. Photo / Warren Buckland

A permanent ban of vehicles on a popular Hawke’s Bay beach may become a reality later this year, following a flood of feedback about the issue.

Vehicle use on Waimārama Beach was thrust into the spotlight at the start of summer, when iwi leader and Waimārama resident Bayden Barber placed large rocks in front of access to the beach to stop vehicles driving on the sand.

The makeshift blockade – which remained in place over summer – coincided with Hastings District Council asking the public for feedback in December about vehicles driving along the beach.

There is an existing bylaw which bans vehicle use on the beach for about five months of the year (late October to April 1) from 8am to 8pm. Driving at speeds over 20km/h is illegal at all times.

A whopping 533 people shared their thoughts on extending that bylaw – with 43 per cent wanting a permanent ban, 37 per cent wanting to keep the status quo, and 9 per cent wanting an extension of the current ban.

Other submitters had a range of other feedback.

A report summarising the feedback will go before the council on Thursday, along with a recommendation to put four options to “communities of interest” around Waimārama.

If the council goes ahead with that next step, the public will get to have a say on which of the four options they believe is best.

Option one is to keep the status quo while the other three options are all permanent bans of vehicles on the beach (with differing ban zones).

Council will use that public consultation to make a decision about vehicles on the beach.

Ngati Kahungunu Iwi chairman, and long-term Waimārama resident, Barber, said he did not regret putting the rocks in place and was pleased to hear the process was progressing.

Council will decide on Thursday whether to put four options to the public, three of which are permanent ban zones (pictured). Photo / HDC
Council will decide on Thursday whether to put four options to the public, three of which are permanent ban zones (pictured). Photo / HDC

“I think it has played a role in having one of the better summers for the beach,” he said, of his makeshift blockade.

“It was noticeable in summer not having as many vehicles driving up and down [the beach].”

He believed there were plenty of safety benefits if a permanent ban was introduced.

A Hastings District Council spokesman said “the issue of the rocks is legally complex as is the land status in the area” and would not state whether the rocks blocking vehicle access to the beach would be moved.

A barrier was installed by Hastings District Council at neighbouring Ocean Beach in late 2021, which has largely stopped vehicles from getting on to that beach.

A Hastings surfer, who did not want to be named, said from a surfer’s perspective a vehicle ban at Waimārama Beach was less of a concern than at Ocean Beach.

He said that was because the best surf breaks at Waimārama were an easy walk from where you park.

“Everything at Waimārama – all the reasonable surf anyway – is at that southern end so there is no issue.”

However, regular beachgoers Paul and Anne Gibbs spoke to Hawke’s Bay Today in December and were opposed to a vehicle ban.

“We’ve already got laws in place, but they’re not being policed. I’ve always understood that a beach is treated like a public road, therefore we’ve got those rules in place and we just need them policed,” Paul, a keen fisherman, said.

Gary Hamilton-Irvine is a Hawke’s Bay-based reporter who covers a range of news topics including business, councils, breaking news and cyclone recovery. He formerly worked at News Corp Australia.

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