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Beach driving tradition defended

PHOTO/ROBERT BRIENZA

Dramatic increase in beach visitor numbers

PAM GRAHAM
[email protected]

There is work going on behind the scenes to protect the tradition of driving vehicles on the beach at the lagoon area of Castlepoint.

A review of the Resource Management Act by Greater Wellington Regional Council bans vehicles on all beaches in the region and while Castlepoint locals don’t know if, or how, it will be enforced they’re moving to get what is effectively an exemption for Castlepoint.

The Castlepoint Ratepayers and Residents Association says vehicles should be allowed in the lagoon area, known as the gap or basin, because there aren’t enough carparks and it’s a special place where grandparents and children enjoy a safe swimming spot.

They say it’s a long-held tradition to park there, and it doesn’t damage shellfish or birdlife.

After a meeting with GWRC last Friday a working group comprising representatives from local iwi, the association, fishing clubs, Masterton District Council and GWRC has been set up.

The Times-Age understands the point was made at the meeting that the issue could become highly charged and political because it affects a lot of people.

“We are looking at what the options are for maintaining the status quo in this special area,” association spokesman John Keen said.

One possibility is an application for a resource consent on behalf of the general public.

In June the association’s committee member Neville Zander appeared before a hearing by independent commissioners on GWRC’s National Resource Management Plan to argue for an amendment to allow recreational access for vehicles at Mataikona Beach, South of Suicide Rock Beach, Okau Beach and adjacent sandy beaches, North, Whakataki Beach, and Castlepoint beaches not covered by the Masterton District Council bylaw.

The association had no issue with vehicles not being allowed on the beachfront area near Jetty Road as there are shellfish there.

Keen said there could be 200 cars on the beach in the lagoon area, where there are just 32 carparks, on busy weekends or on days like Boxing Day.

There had only ever been the odd hiccup in regard to the behaviour of people parking on the beach, and in the main people respected the environment there, he said.

Castlepoint is a unique place and locals have done a lot of work to enhance it for visitors, including planting 17,000 plants in dune areas.

Zander said he had a 71-year-long association with Castlepoint and “I have never seen a bird injured or killed on the beach due to motor vehicles.”

He said Forest and Bird had not been active in promoting the avoidance of motor vehicles on the beach nor had the GWRC.

“The biggest threat to bird life is from rodents, feral cats, mustelids and disturbance from some unleashed dogs,” he said.

Castlepoint is constantly voted in New Zealand’s top 10 beaches.

Rules banning cars had no regard for disabled people, two of whom live at Castlepoint, Zander told the hearing.

Castlepoint has 18 permanent households and about 150 dwellings, a holiday park and a store/cafe.

He said there was no designated parking place or bylaw in place for campervans, which were increasing in number and were not all self-contained.

In recent times especially since illumination of the lighthouse at night there has been a dramatic increase in day visitors to Castlepoint, Zander said.

He said on January 24, 2016, there were 106 vehicles and 12 vehicles with boat trailers attached on the scenic reserve beach.

On January 22, 2018, there were 180 vehicles plus 20 vehicles with boat trailers attached.

A lot of these people are day visitors and have no access to a property to park on.

Should recreational vehicles not be allowed on the beach then Jetty Road will be untenable if not a shambles, Zander said

6 COMMENTS

  1. Having spent much time in the basin, I strongly feel it is extremely important that cars are allowed to continue to have access. It is a crucial part of the culture that makes Castlepoint so unique from other beach resorts.
    Locals, do not allow the fun police such as councils with their RMA’s completely strip our country of areas that still provide good old kiwi summer fun.
    Also, don’t let the council loose on Jetty Road with a landscape design for car parking. What they deem as an act of beautifying will only reduce the number of car parks and take away the natural NZ East Coast beach front appeal!

  2. A few cars+ trailers is OK. My concern is with the inexperienced folks in 2wd s heading to the gap they speed and get stuck. I only visit our Bach 5/6 times a year and see a stuck vehicle all most every trip not to menchioned speeders.

  3. I have owned property at Okau Bay for the last 26 years and regularly used a variety of vehicles to access seafood, launch boats and clear plastic, bottles, cans and rope. On the last two official cleanups I have filled the tray on my ATV between Okau Bay and Suicide Rock. It would be of greater benefit if those authorities involved enforced the rules that already exist i.e. licensed drivers, registered vehicles, and speed limits rather than impose blanket bans that penalize those that have invested in the area, quietly enjoyed recreational activites
    contributed to environmental improvement and helped develop walking tracks to enhance the whole Castlepoint area.

  4. I’ve spent many delightful days there with family and friends. Banning parking at the lagoon would deny many a family the special
    memories available no where else. With limited parking, a ban not only would deny families outings, but destroy the livelihood of the folks living there. This is a special place that needs to be left alone as is.

  5. Let what works for the locals and visitors alike continue. Sounds like no harm is being done. Don’t “fix” what is not broken. Good luck with keeping this tradition going.

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