HDC report on beach access options for vehicles for 20 March 2024 meeting

Screenshot of recommendations.

We are almost at the end of a very long process exploring options around access for vehicles to Waikawa Beach. HDC received 446 submissions and officers have prepared a report with Recommendations for Councillors to consider at their meeting on 20 March 2024. See the Agenda item. There is also a 98 MB PDF you can download for easier reading.

The report offers 3 choices for Councillors to consider: no vehicle access at all, or two ways to pause proceedings.

The Recommendation

3. Recommendation

3.1 That Report 24/114 Waikawa Beach Vehicle Access-way be received.

3.2 That this matter or decision is recognised as significant in terms of S76 of the Local Government Act.

3.3 That Council does not facilitate vehicle access to Waikawa Beach. However, continues to support pedestrian access through established pathways on publicly owned land. OR

3.4 That Council pauses the current process and re-assesses options to provide beach access on Waikawa beach at an alternate site. OR

3.5 That Council pauses the current process and lays it on the table to resume at a future date

Private land

Previously, for some time, the vehicle access was through private land at the end of Manga Pirau Street. It seems the landowners are disinclined to allow permanent access in future. This means the previously laid out and consulted on options for access through the previous vehicle entrance are no longer available. (My emphasis below)

Landowner perspective

5.2 Historically, access to Waikawa Beach has been facilitated by private landowners who have generously provided access to the community without seeking recognition or any financial gain.

5.3 Officers have been working closely with the landowners in trying to negotiate a lease agreement. It is essential to note that the landowners do not see providing access over their land as a permanent arrangement, as they have other aspirations for their family land and any access would be granted on a short term basis. What is critical in whatever decision is made regarding beach access is that the mana and interests of the whānau are protected and that they are not unfairly subject to criticism from the community as a result of decisions made by Council.

5.4 Council Officers will continue working with the private landowners to maintain their rights over their land, in a capacity that supports their ambitions as they have graciously provided this service to the community. However, this means Options 1 and 2 are no longer viable at this stage.

The Submissions

It takes a very long time to read through all the submissions, but some themes emerge.

  1. The community is utterly divided on whether or not vehicles should access the beach from Waikawa. Furthermore, some submitters feel vehicles should not be allowed on the beach at all, even if access is gained elsewhere.
  2. Many submitters noted the inadequacy of the three current pedestrian accesses for people with mobility and other issues and for those who wish to carry large or heavy items such as fishing gear. It's clear that there is great scope for HDC to provide one or more first-class pedestrian accesses that would go some way to resolving this issue. It's certainly not satisfactory that people feel obliged to take a vehicle on the beach simply because pedestrian access is inadequate.
  3. Many submitters, on both sides of the debate, pointed out that there is excellent access for vehicles at nearby beaches. Some pointed out that HDC provides beach access for vehicles at 3 beaches in the district: Hōkio, Waitārere and Foxton. Some of those places have specific boat launching ramps.
  4. Some submitters pointed out that quite a few vehicles that have accessed the beach via Waikawa in the past have come from beyond the Waikawa Beach area. Clearly those vehicles could easily use an access point at a different beach that already provides that facility.
  5. Some submitters expressed concern that some people who are particularly passionate about driving their vehicles onto Waikawa Beach specifically may continue their past destructive behaviours and go on to create their own illegal tracks. This was also noted in the body of the report (see below quote).

Disrespect and law breaking

General Commentary

5.5 Concerningly, there have been reports of community members creating their own paths through sensitive ecological areas to reach the beach, driven over and damaged private land, as well as reports of a sense of fear among some residents about expressing their opinions due to welfare and safety concerns. Additionally, there have been instances of individuals blatantly disregarding the law, as evidenced by pictures sent to Council Officers. Police have been involved in monitoring the situation and Council Officers have kept Horizons Regional Council informed of damage and destruction of dunes and plantings. The behaviour of some members of the public throughout this period has been disappointing to hear about and is a cause for significant concern. Not only does it demonstrate a lack of respect for the environment and private property, but it also poses risks to the safety and wellbeing of both residents and visitors to the area.

Screenshot about disrespect from the report.

Next steps

Councillors will debate the Recommendations at their meeting on 20 March 2024. They don't have to choose one of the options recommended, and they could present their own options if they wished. They may decide to amend one of the Recommendations.

Members of the public are welcome to attend HDC meetings in person, or can watch online (during or afterwards).

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