Public safety, recreational fishing and environmental protection are behind a new draft policy proposing changes to where people can drive on local beaches – and the community is being urged to have its say via an online survey which opens on Monday, January 14.
“Beaches are highly valued by both the local community of Coffs Harbour and the many visitors to our region,” said Mick Raby, Council’s Director Sustainable Infrastructure. “They are a significant driver of tourism for the region and support a wide range of recreational activities, including fishing. At the same time, beaches and their dunes are also vital ecological habitats to a variety of native flora and fauna, as well as offering protection from coastal erosion processes.
“There are long-held concerns by many members of the community in regards to the environmental impacts of 4WDs on beaches – from damage to dunal vegetation and the impacts on minute organisms in the sand, little tern colonies, turtles and shore birds, as well as safety concerns for other beach users as our coastal suburb populations grow. This has resulted in community requests to review the beaches where vehicle access is currently permitted under the old 1996 policy, to reduce the potential for environmental damage.
“We believe this draft Policy represents a balanced approach that allows the 4WD and fishing community to continue to enjoy these natural assets, while protecting the safety of other beach users and the sensitive and dynamic beach environment. I’d urge everyone to take a look and give us your thoughts.”
The changes proposed from the old 1996 policy are:
- Boambee Beach – reduce area to exclude the mouth of the Boambee Creek estuary to reduce conflict with dog off leash, family usage and environmental sensitivity.
- Hearnes Lake Beach – removed due to environmental sensitivity. North of Hearnes Lake Road to Wills Creek comprises a nesting area for the endangered little terns and also has NPWS records of sea turtles nesting (Green and Loggerhead turtles). Along with the dogs off leash usage and urban growth close to this beach, there will be an increase in recreational use. The adopted Hearnes Lake Estuary Management Plan recommends that the current vehicle access point is closed due to the need to cross the Lake entrance channel to gain access to the beach.
- Darkum Beach – removed due to limited vehicle accessibility. Assessment indicates that due to the topographic constraints no sustainable, practical access can be maintained.
- Woolgoolga Back Beach – The allowable area has been limited to north of the access point to keep vehicles away from the Creek entrance. This is in response to the Willis Creek Estuary Coastal Zone Management Plan which notes that the Willis Creek entrance may move to the north as a result of coastal processes responding to sea level rise and other climate change impacts. This may be reviewed in the future as these processes impact further on the existing car park, 4WD access to the beach and associated infrastructure.
- Arrawarra Beach – Arrawarra Headland to Arrawarra Creek entrance deleted to reflect Solitary Island Marine Park (SIMP) provisions and competing uses. Current SIMP maps indicate that Arrawarra Beach is vehicle prohibited, other than for the launching and retrieving boats. It is considered that the high number of recreational users, boat launching, and associated parking of vehicles and trailers make this location unsuitable for continued recreational 4WD use. The recommendation is to align with the SIMP prohibition in this instance.
- Corindi/Pipeclay – modified to exclude the area north of the existing vehicle access point off Ocean Street due to increased risk of conflict between recreational beach users on foot and vehicles.
- Station Creek Beach via access through Yuraygir National Park and North Beach, part of Bongil Bongil National Park, are now included within Council’s draft Policy. Users already require a NPWS Parks Pass to access this beach and associated compliance with National Parks regulations.
A trial restriction is currently in place along a section of Arrawarra Beach to Pipeclay Beach, Corindi, until March 1 2019 due to public safety concerns during the busy summer period.
There has already been extensive consultation with key user groups, including fishing and 4WD clubs and professional fishermen and now the wider community is being urged to have their say via the survey at https://haveyoursay.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/beach-vehicle-access
The survey is open from Monday, January 14 2019, until Thursday, February 28 2019.