At the Ōpōtiki District Council meeting on 25 August, Council considered the public feedback on the Consolidated Bylaw and Dog Control Policy, made several amendments in light of that feedback and adopted the consolidated bylaws.

One topic that had been widely discussed in the community and between councillors was the feedback and solutions to the issue of vehicles on beaches.

Ōpōtiki Mayor, Lyn Riesterer, said that a lot of community feedback focussed on the two extremes – either all vehicles, everywhere, all the time, or no vehicles anywhere. She said that councillors had tried to find a solution between those two extremes.

“When the changes to the bylaws around vehicles on beaches were first proposed, there was a lot of feedback from people who saw the positive sides of allowing safe access and use of the intertidal areas – for collecting kai, for access to fishing spots and allowing older or less mobile family to visit our beautiful beaches.

“On the other side, we know that our native flora and fauna are frequently harmed and there is extensive damage and disturbance to the nesting areas of dotterels and other species. People also spoke about their concerns that the beach felt unsafe for families who are playing in the sand or lying in the sun with vehicles whizzing in every direction.

“At council last month, we looked for a way to balance these two arguments.

“What really stood out was that many submitters identified two-wheeled vehicles as the most dangerous and speedy even in areas with restrictions.

“We wanted to reflect community feedback in a solution that allowed for continued use for responsible drivers – drivers who take care and drive at slow speeds, use identified access points, and ensure they don’t leave behind rubbish or destroy our fragile beach habitats. But we wanted to ensure that our bylaw stops hoons who interfere with other peaceful users and destroy our dunes and beach environment.

“To do that, our bylaw makes sure that Vehicle Prohibited Areas match the ones outlined in the 2008 Beach Bylaw and specify demarcated dotterel nesting areas. It also means that two-wheeled motorcycles have been prohibited from beaches,” Mayor Riesterer said.

The Mayor said that this marked a middle point ensuring safety on beaches for other uses, protection of habitat and continued access to fish or collect shellfish. 

“Council can’t be everywhere at once, so we ask that the community reports bad behaviour when they see it – to the Police if necessary or to council through the Antenno app or a phone call.

“We expect that over time, these rules will become the new normal and respectful and responsible use of our coastal areas makes them safe and enjoyable for everyone,” Mayor Riesterer said.