Beach closures taking time to sink in
AN online petition has been launched to fight the newly adopted Vehicles on Beaches Policy.
It currently has almost 1,200 signatures.
The new policy was adopted unanimously by Coffs Harbour City Councillors at their April 23 meeting.
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Council's Submissions Policy details how they deal with written petitions.
"Council will accept petitions (written) from people who have an interest in the Coffs Harbour Local Government Area as residents, landowners, business people or in some other capacity.
'Petitions must be addressed to the General Manager. If a petition is received by a Councillor, they will forward it to the Office of the General Manager. The petition must be an original (no copies),' the policy reads.
The only information on the change.org website about the person who started the 'Coffs Harbour City Council: Revoke the new Driving on Beaches Policy' is that it was started by a 'Mr A'.
Council has reiterated that the new policy was adopted following a period of consultation with members of the public and key stakeholders (government departments and user groups).
During the 28-day exhibition period in early 2019 a total of 365 submissions were received.
A report prepared by Council's Works Program Coordinator, and considered by Councillors prior to adopting the policy, outlined a number of problems that needed to be addressed.
'There have been reports of incidents and near misses within the Local Government Area between 4WDs and other beach users.
'A dog was fatally injured by a 4WD in November 2019. Many of the submissions cited such incidents of vehicles travelling too fast along the beaches, often close to children and dogs off leash.
'Some submissions also reported drivers using the beaches as an alternative to the roads when they are alcohol impaired. Council has evidence of ongoing 4WD use in prohibited areas, and 4WD drivers disregarding the existing guidelines which propose to protect the dunes and wildlife.'
While the change-org petition is calling for a rethink of the entire policy, there has been a particular backlash in relation to the closure of Corindi Beach to 4WDs and the installation of a gate enforcing the closure.
Installed in early April; the gate has already been destroyed three times.
The gate is located on a reserve owned by NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment - Crown Lands and is managed by a board made up of community volunteers.
"The installation of a vehicle barrier followed ongoing concerns about unregulated recreational four wheel drive activity creating safety issues with other beach visitors including on the narrow access road, and environmental damage to sand dunes and vegetation as well as areas of Aboriginal cultural heritage," a spokesperson from the Department said.
Fiona Hayes, Secretary of the Corindi Beach Reserve land managers, is frustrated by the constant vandalism.
"Once Council erects their 'no driving on beaches sign' at Ocean street we expect that people will have a better understanding of why the barrier is in place," Ms Hayes said.