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Putting the brakes on Makorori speedsters

Opportunity to create a first for New Zealand.

Bollards and a 20-kilometre-an-hour speed limit will be introduced at Makorori Beach in response to concerns from residents about speeding vehicles and rapidly increasing damage to the dunes.

Councillors, sitting as the operations committee, approved the installation of bollards between State Highway 35 and council reserve land at Makorori, and the establishment of a reserve management plan at a cost if $125,000.

Their decision should please residents who sent a deputation to talk to the council about speed and environmental concerns on October 29 and previously held a meeting at Makorori Beach attended by Mayor Rehette Stoltz, Tawhiti-Uawa ward district councillor Pat Seymour and Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency.

Council staff did not recommend a vehicle-on-the-beach bylaw but instead recommended “a package of options” that will include the 20kmh speed limit on the beach, establishment of a voluntary coast care group, increased signage, a public awareness campaign and investigation of vehicle exclusion areas through the Tairawhiti Resource Management Plan review.

The report before councillors said the package would be phased in.

Initially the bollards and speed limit, some signage and the development of a reserve management plan would “inform other actions and implementation”.

Councillor Pat Seymour suggested finding external funding to cover that part of the beach that was not council-owned.

The recommendation before the council would push traffic to other parts of the beach, which would not be protected by bollards.

Cr Seymour said she had spoken to a private landowner and wanted “a package” costed to provide more bollards.

“We don't want people fenced off from using the beach. We want defined areas to be controlled and the dunes to continue to be protected.”

Committee chairman Andy Cranston objected to that part of the report which said that possible factors contributing to dune deterioration included “technological advances in wetsuits leading to increased winter surfing and therefore increased winter vehicle access when the dunes are damp and more vulnerable to damage”.

Cr Cranston, a keen surfer, said there was no evidence for the claim.

No other beach users had been identified “except my tribe,” he said to the laughter of others at the meeting.

Cr Larry Foster, another surfing enthusiast, said a minority group of predominantly speeding motorbike riders were causing the problem.

There were three surf breaks of national significance at the beach.

There was an ideal opportunity to create a New Zealand first with a surfing reserve complete with environmental protection.

Cr Terry Sheldrake, referring to that part of the report which said only police could carry out enforcement action against moving vehicles said “no offence to the police, they're probably not going to be there”.

Cr Kerry Worsnop suggested the 20kmh speed limit be reduced to 10kmh as it would be easier to tell if someone was exceeding the limit.

Council community lifelines director David Wilson said people were turning Makorori into “their playground” by driving through the dunes.

Bollards would also help resolve the issue of people dumping rubbish in the area. The beach had more access ways than there needed to be.

Mr Wilson said he was not referring to access-ways to the surf breaks.

New ones had being rutted out deliberately. Those areas, at night, were the location of anti-social behaviour.

Cr Seymour said bollards installed at Wainui had successfully protected those dunes.

The surfing reserve had not been suggested in the Long Term Plan but the idea “could be picked up” as Makorori was a fabulous beach.

The aim was to prevent degradation of the dunes, which was increasing.

There were 14 new access-ways which did not exist a couple of years before, she said.

They were continually being made.

Makorori Beach. File picture