The ‘Safe Beach Driving’ (SBD) programme was initiated due to concerns about the safety of beach users from dangerous beach driving, and damage caused to the sand dunes and beach environment.
There has been good cooperation with this education and awareness programme from the Department of Conservation (DOC), Northland Police, all three district councils, New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), other agencies, and local community groups.
Over the 2014/15 summer period there have, however, been a number of serious injury crashes and one fatality on Northland beaches.
Update on vehicles on beaches bylaws
Whāngārei was the first district to bring in legislation in the form of a beach bylaw controlling vehicle use on specified beaches which was adopted in 2009. This included a 30kph speed limit and a safe zone near the Ruakaka Surf Life-saving Club. Since this was introduced there has been a reduction in complaints around inappropriate vehicle use on the beaches in the district. Consultation is currently underway on a proposed new safe zone and beach access.
The Kaipara District Council (KDC) has adopted a beach bylaw controlling vehicle use on Ripiro Beach, which came into force on 1 December 2014. This bylaw includes reduced speed limits of 30kph near the beach access points at Baylys Beach and Glinks Gully.
The Far North District Council (FNDC) is currently consulting on a new beach bylaw. The draft bylaw currently proposes only one safe zone being the entire length of Coopers Beach. Other safe zones may be added as they are identified. More information on this proposed bylaw can be found on the FNDC website.
Safe beach driving information and patrol days over the Christmas/New Year period
Safe beach driving information and patrol days have again been held around the region this summer. The main focus of these events was to continue to raise public awareness of safe and responsible driver behaviour and that road rules apply on beaches. The campaign included beach patrols in agency vehicles distributing beach driving leaflets, tide tables, and other promotional items, and answering queries.
Multi-agency patrols will again be run along Ripiro Beach, Tokerau, Rangiputa and Te Oneroa a Tōhē (Ninety Mile Beach) over the Christmas/New Year period where a large influx of visitors to the region occurs. A family fun day will be held again at Ruakaka in collaboration with DOC, Police and Bream Bay Coastal Care Trust with activities for the kids and information displays. Throughout the day a large number of adults and children visit the display and activities. Safe beach driving displays are also included at other events around the region.
Safe beach driving promotion and advertising
Radio adverts giving tips on how to drive safely on the beach have been running regularly with a higher concentration over the summer months. Positive feedback has been received on these adverts.
In December NRC provided assistance to KDC in the development of a new information leaflet and signage for Ripiro Beach, to make beach users aware of the new speed limits and also highlight the dangers of driving on Ripiro Beach.
Assistance was also given to DOC in the development of a sign and banner for the Maitai Bay campground (Waikato Bay) encouraging people launching their boats to park their trailer in the car-park, rather than on the beach. In past years large numbers of people have parked on the beach, causing safety and environmental issues. The new signage seems to have been very effective this summer with the car-park very heavily used and very few people parking on or driving along the beach.