Vehicles on Beaches Policy

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Council proposes changes to vehicular access to local beaches under the draft Vehicles on Beaches Policy.

Balancing public safety, recreational activities and environmental protection are behind a new ‘Vehicles on Beaches’ Policy adopted by Coffs Harbour City Council on April 23, 2020.

“Beaches are highly valued by both the local community of Coffs Harbour and the many visitors to our region,” said Mick Raby, Council’s Director Sustainable Infrastructure. “They are a significant driver of tourism for the region and support a wide range of recreational activities, including fishing. At the same time, beaches and their dunes are also vital ecological habitats to a variety of native flora and fauna, as well as offering protection from coastal erosion processes.”

There have been long-held concerns by many members of the community in regards to the environmental impacts of 4WDs on beaches. These include damage to dunes and the impacts on minute organisms in the sand, the risks to endangered Little Tern colonies, breeding turtles and shore birds. In addition, there have been safety concerns for other beach users as our coastal suburb populations grow.

The adopted Policy is the result of a community survey carried out in January and February 2019 that attracted 365 responses and consultation with key stakeholders such as fishing and 4WD clubs, professional fishermen and relevant NSW Government bodies.

“We believe this Policy represents a balanced approach that allows the 4WD and fishing community to continue to enjoy these natural assets, while protecting the safety of other beach users and the sensitive and dynamic beach environment,” said Mr Raby.

The main points of the Policy are:

  • Boambee Beach – driving area reduced to exclude the mouth of the Boambee Creek estuary to reduce conflict with dog off leash, family usage and environmental sensitivity.
  • Hearnes Lake Beach – vehicles no longer permitted due to environmental sensitivity. North of Hearnes Lake Road to Willis Creek comprises a nesting area for the endangered little terns and also has NPWS records of sea turtles nesting (Green and Loggerhead turtles). The adopted Hearnes Lake Estuary Management Plan recommends that the current vehicle access point is closed due to the need to cross the lake entrance channel to gain access to the beach.
  • Darkum Beach – removed due to limited vehicle accessibility. Assessment indicates that due to the topographic constraints no sustainable, practical access can be maintained.
  • Woolgoolga Back Beach – The allowable area has been limited to north of the access point to keep vehicles away from the Creek entrance. This is in response to the Willis Creek Estuary Coastal Zone Management Plan which notes that the Willis Creek entrance may move to the north as a result of coastal processes responding to sea level rise and other climate change impacts. This may be reviewed in the future as these processes impact further on the existing car park, 4WD access to the beach and associated infrastructure.
  • Arrawarra Beach – Arrawarra Headland to Arrawarra Creek entrance. Vehicles no longer allowed to reflect Solitary Island Marine Park (SIMP) provisions and competing uses.
  • Corindi Beach – Access has been closed for public safety reasons by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, which manages this area of Crown Land through a Reserve Committee.
  • Station Creek Beach via access through Yuraygir National Park and North Beach, part of Bongil Bongil National Park, are now included within the Policy. Users already require a NPWS Parks Pass to access this beach and associated compliance with National Parks regulations.

Under the Policy, provisions have been included for parking on Arrawarra, Sandy and Sawtell Beaches to assist with the launching and retrieval of boats because of the distance to the nearest carpark.

Balancing public safety, recreational activities and environmental protection are behind a new ‘Vehicles on Beaches’ Policy adopted by Coffs Harbour City Council on April 23, 2020.

“Beaches are highly valued by both the local community of Coffs Harbour and the many visitors to our region,” said Mick Raby, Council’s Director Sustainable Infrastructure. “They are a significant driver of tourism for the region and support a wide range of recreational activities, including fishing. At the same time, beaches and their dunes are also vital ecological habitats to a variety of native flora and fauna, as well as offering protection from coastal erosion processes.”

There have been long-held concerns by many members of the community in regards to the environmental impacts of 4WDs on beaches. These include damage to dunes and the impacts on minute organisms in the sand, the risks to endangered Little Tern colonies, breeding turtles and shore birds. In addition, there have been safety concerns for other beach users as our coastal suburb populations grow.

The adopted Policy is the result of a community survey carried out in January and February 2019 that attracted 365 responses and consultation with key stakeholders such as fishing and 4WD clubs, professional fishermen and relevant NSW Government bodies.

“We believe this Policy represents a balanced approach that allows the 4WD and fishing community to continue to enjoy these natural assets, while protecting the safety of other beach users and the sensitive and dynamic beach environment,” said Mr Raby.

The main points of the Policy are:

  • Boambee Beach – driving area reduced to exclude the mouth of the Boambee Creek estuary to reduce conflict with dog off leash, family usage and environmental sensitivity.
  • Hearnes Lake Beach – vehicles no longer permitted due to environmental sensitivity. North of Hearnes Lake Road to Willis Creek comprises a nesting area for the endangered little terns and also has NPWS records of sea turtles nesting (Green and Loggerhead turtles). The adopted Hearnes Lake Estuary Management Plan recommends that the current vehicle access point is closed due to the need to cross the lake entrance channel to gain access to the beach.
  • Darkum Beach – removed due to limited vehicle accessibility. Assessment indicates that due to the topographic constraints no sustainable, practical access can be maintained.
  • Woolgoolga Back Beach – The allowable area has been limited to north of the access point to keep vehicles away from the Creek entrance. This is in response to the Willis Creek Estuary Coastal Zone Management Plan which notes that the Willis Creek entrance may move to the north as a result of coastal processes responding to sea level rise and other climate change impacts. This may be reviewed in the future as these processes impact further on the existing car park, 4WD access to the beach and associated infrastructure.
  • Arrawarra Beach – Arrawarra Headland to Arrawarra Creek entrance. Vehicles no longer allowed to reflect Solitary Island Marine Park (SIMP) provisions and competing uses.
  • Corindi Beach – Access has been closed for public safety reasons by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, which manages this area of Crown Land through a Reserve Committee.
  • Station Creek Beach via access through Yuraygir National Park and North Beach, part of Bongil Bongil National Park, are now included within the Policy. Users already require a NPWS Parks Pass to access this beach and associated compliance with National Parks regulations.

Under the Policy, provisions have been included for parking on Arrawarra, Sandy and Sawtell Beaches to assist with the launching and retrieval of boats because of the distance to the nearest carpark.

Please log any questions regarding the draft Vehicles on Beaches Policy proposals and a Council officer will respond as soon as possible.

Q&A

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  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    If Access to Hearns Lake beach is to be blocked for 4WD users, Maybe the Road and Carpark at the end of Hearns Lake Road should be upgraded to accommodate access and safe parking points for the beach. otherwise where are users of the beach meant to gain access? All the way from Sandy Beach?

    4wd Beach user asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. All comments made in the survey and as separate submissions will be considered by Council at the conclusion of the consultation period. The issue of parking has been raised by a number of people and this will need to be considered along with other issues raised by the community.

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    Free access a must

    John Ragen asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. All comments made in the survey and as separate submissions will be considered by Council at the conclusion of the consultation period.

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    Where is the evidence that change is required? What evidence has been provided that indicates the current plan does not ensure the safety of all beach users? What empirical/scientific evidence has been provided that indicates the current plan is damaging the coastal environment? What empirical/scientific evidence has been provided to show that the current plan does not allow sustainable and equitable recreational use of the beaches? Has an impact study been conducted to assess the loss of tourism dollars that will be caused by the closures. A large number of tourists who visit the Coffs Coast do so in 4wd's that tow boats. The removal of some of these diverse areas of recreational activities will have a negative impact on tourism. Who are the key stakeholders that put forward the proposed changes to the current plan? If boat launching at Arrawarra is to be banned will the council finally build a safe boat launching facility that can be used at both high and low tide to replace the extremely dangerous ramp that is currently provided at the Jetty? In regards to the SIMP, has research been done to determine the increased risk of boating accidents, or damage to the SIMP from increased boating emissions that will occur if Arrawarra is closed to boat launching? Recreational fisherman forced to launch from the unsafe boat ramp at Coffs Harbour Jetty will have a journey of approx 30 nautical miles to reach the fishing grounds off Arrawarra. Please provide evidence.

    Matt asked over 1 year ago

    Hi the draft policy does not propose restricting boat launching at Arrawarra. Key stakeholders consulted over the proposed changes include fishing clubs and professional fishers as well as the the Professional Fishermen's Association and the Coffs Coast Tourism Association. Those stakeholders are also invited to make further comments and all comments will be reported to Council for consideration.

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    How many beaches are publicly available in the Coffs Harbour Local Government area? How many beaches in the Coffs Harbour Local Government area are open to vehicles? How long has Boambee Beach in particular been open to vehicles and how has this effected public safety? Please show examples where safety has been an issue over the period the beach has been open to vehicles.

    dan asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. All comments made in the survey and as separate submissions will be considered by Council at the conclusion of the consultation period. Under the proposed policy there would be a total of 9 4wd accessible beaches in the LGA, although Sandy Beach, Emerald Beach and Sawtell would only be accessible launching and retrieving boats. To my understanding, Boambee Beach has been accessible for vehicles for many years.

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    i dont have a question id just like to say i grew up in sandy beach and we ameays drove on the beach to access hearnz lake to go fishing and surfing. No damage was caused in the 15 years that me and many of my friends did this so why do you have to ruin the lifestyle we grew to love?

    Asher asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. All comments made in the survey and as separate submissions will be considered by Council at the conclusion of the consultation period.

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    Woolgoolga Back Beach access in the current format is very very soft. Access should be allowed on the southern end all the way to the exit at Sandy Beach. The 25/50kph is a must. The nesting area has been isolated this will protect all animal life.

    Beardy asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. All comments made in the survey and as separate submissions will be considered by Council at the conclusion of the consultation period.

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    Stop the fun police from taking away everything we treasure as an Australian lifestyle Cars on beaches are something I grew up with and will continue with tradition with my kids pull your heads in and make better decisions like policing them which creates more jobs rather than closing them

    Blake asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. All comments made in the survey and as separate submissions will be considered by Council at the conclusion of the consultation period.

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    We get people from all the country to four wheel drive on the tracks around Coffs We should be encouraging beach driving and camping. Great for the economy.

    Brad asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. All comments made in the survey and as separate submissions will be considered by Council at the conclusion of the consultation period.

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    how do you propose access to Pebbly Beach Camping ground if access to Station Creek Beach is restricted

    blade.27 asked over 1 year ago

    Hi Station Creek Beach access is retained.

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    will Council build an access road to Pebbly Beach Campground thru Yurragir National Park as Station Creek access will be closed???

    blade.27 asked over 1 year ago

    Hi Station Creek Beach access is retained.

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    Why penalise a majority of people doing the correct thing for the idiots that do the wrong thing? We've been using these beaches for years and never had a problem. Maby if you inforced the rules that currently apply now instead off creating new ones. As a rate payer I'd like to use these areas. If they get shut off might make me think twice about living in this area. Plus the amount of tourists that's would not come to this area.

    Kev1 asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. All comments made in the survey and as separate submissions will be considered by Council at the conclusion of the consultation period.

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    Would you consider including Tucker’s rock and Bundadgen in your draft. Dune Erosion is somtimes extreme along that part of the beach and many of us locals consider 4WD to be a huge part of the problem. Tucker’s Rock beach is quiet and wild but 4WD often have little respect for the few people on the beach or for the natural surroundings.

    asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. All comments made in the survey and as separate submissions will be considered by Council at the conclusion of the consultation period.

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    How are you going to enforce the measures, such as proposed at Hearnes Lake beach? Vehicles are already prohibited from the neighbouring Sandy Beach, but this does not stop many vehicles using this beach on a daily basis, causing a real hazard for walkers, childen, pets, etc. Enforcement seems to be a major issue.

    PeterQ asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. Thank you for your comment. Hi. All comments made in the survey and as separate submissions will be considered by Council at the conclusion of the consultation period. Reports of vehicles illegally accessing Sandy Beach have also been reported to Rangers.

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    Please remove vehicles from all beaches. I've been harassed running on boambee beach by 4WDs, and witnessed drivers of utes with dogs in the back intentionally drawing unleashed dogs on the beach kilometres away from their owners in some cruel form of a sick joke. 4WDs on the beach make the whole beach unsafe for families and anyone that wants to lie down. It's also a risk to turtles that have started to nest in our area again.

    mck asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. All comments made in the survey and as separate submissions will be considered by Council at the conclusion of the consultation period.

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    Vehicle’s needs to be able to be permitted to launch and retrieval of beach launch sail boats,( catamarans, laser,etc) in the front of the Yacht club, as this has been for many years .

    Anthony Priest asked over 1 year ago

    Thank you for your comment. All comments made through the survey or as submissions will be presented to Council at the conclusion of the consultation period. 

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    Surely, it’s a no-brainer if there are dogs and children and turtles on the beach, then banning four-wheel drives (often driven by p platers) should be obvious, no?

    Roger Edmonds asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. All comments made as part of survey responses or submissions will be presented to Council for consideration at the conclusion of the consultation period.

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    With a constant stream of campers in motor vans at Arrawarra beach car park and and early morning surfers where would council like me to park my boat trailer and tractor?. Second avenue in front of dwellings is not suitable as this would take up too much room and this area also has Illegal campers and surfers as well. This would lead to friction. This leaves the grassy area bounded by Second ave and Third ave but with the proposed restrictions there is no way this area is big enough. The reality is that very few people use this area choosing rather to use the grassy picnic area which was parking and has been set aside for beach goers. Surely the far eastern end of the beach from the ramp to the rocks could be put aside for boat parking and from the boat ramp west to Arrawarra creek is plenty for beach goers. After all it has been this since 1965 as far as I can remember.

    samson811 asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. Thank you for your comments and question. Council has met with local amateur and professional fishers and with fishing clubs to discuss the parking issue. Under the current proposals and trial, vehicles cannot park east of the boat ramp, but may park north west of the boat ramp to a point near the end of the car park. The land on the corner of Second Avenue is identified as an overflow car park area, and parking is permitted as long as vehicles don't block residential vehicle access. At a recent inspection of Arrawarra a total of six tractors were seen parked in the sealed boat and trailer car parks and a seventh was on the beach.

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    So does this mean vehicles are prohibited on Sandy Beach? It’s been pretty near a highway over Christmas. Very dangerous for children & dogs on dog beach. Also idiots drive on grassy areas.

    Christine Jackson asked over 1 year ago

    Thank you for your comments. Vehicles are only permitted near the boat ramp, for launching and retrieving boats. Licensed professional fishermen are permitted access under the Fisheries Act.

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    Are all vehicles allowed unfettered use of main Sandy Beach or do conditions apply, such as boat launching?

    Stephen asked over 1 year ago

    Vehicle access to Sandy Beach is only permitted for launching and retrieving boats, or for professional licensed fishers.

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    Please stop vehicles driving on Sandy Beach. There are always cars on the beach, this is dangerous! Someone is going to get hurt. There are also indangered turtles and turns on Woolgooglga back beach. It is ridiculous that vehicles should be allowed access.

    Megan Christie asked over 1 year ago

    Thank you for your comments. All issues raised through this consultation will be referred to Council for consideration. The matter of vehicles illegally accessing Sandy Beach north of the boat ramp has been referred to Council Rangers.

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    I do not agree with vehicles driving on the beach. It is a totally unnecessary pastime. - It ruins the visual amenity of the region - it is a threat to the marine estate and is confirmed as one under the Marine Estate Management Plan - it is anti social practice -it is dangerous to beach goers. No to driving on beaches!!!

    Georgina Eliason asked over 1 year ago

    Thank you for your comments. Councill will consider all comments and issues raised through this consultation process.

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    Also it is impossible to police.

    Georgina Eliason asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. There have been a number of representations regarding vehicles illegally accessing restricted beaches and they have been reported to Rangers. All issues raised by the community during this consultation will be presented to Council for consideration.

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    Why was Sandy Beach excluded from the discussion on 4WD use on the beach?

    lamb asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. Thank you for your question. Sandy Beach was not included in the survey questions because there are no changes proposed. However any comments made in the survey will be presented to Council with survey data, for consideration at the conclusions of the consultation period.

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    My question is WHY let HEARNES LAKE BEACH continue to be a Leash free zone for dogs. ? When you clearly state you are trying to rehabilitate the area for ENDANGERED little turns. ! The number of dogs I have seen chasing these small birds, near Willis creek where it is blocked off with signs is incredible. Taking away the use of hearnes lake (beach side driving) is absolutey ridiculous. My great grandfather has driven there, my father, myself, my son. So many people we know. This beach is a well known, very used spot for fisherman, wind surfers, surfers and to think that hearnes lake carkpark is a good alternative to parking on the beach is questionable. I've known of two cars get broken into Hearnes lake car park in the last 3MONTHS! I went there and collected 7 used needles which were scattered through the car park and lake, aswell as the broken glass everywhere! To make people of these activities have to park here.. Walk to the beach to surf/fish ect. Your joking right? In the response to the rehabilitation of the water at hearnes lake and Willis creek, stating that 4x4s are creating disturbance from the creek crossing. Fair enough. Remove the creek crossing and limit 4x4s to beachside driving ONLY. I ask you to take a look at the impact close-by farms may be having on our waters systems because not long ago that was proven to have a major impact on the health of hearnes lake. Not because of 4x4. The fact that the highway also has one or two bridges over the lakes would most definitely have more of an impact than the small handful of 4x4s that even use that crossing (most go to the beach access at woopi end) I think you have restricted Hearnes lake beach way too much and it will only cause you future conflict with members of the community who passionately vacate this area more than half the week. Please reconsider your changes to vacate for people who use this beach the most!

    Sandy Local NOT HAPPY asked over 1 year ago

    Hi. Thank you for your comments. Dogs are required to be on a leash at Hearnes Lake Beach during the Little Terns breeding season. All survey data and comments will be presented to Council for consideration at the conclusion of the consultation period.

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    The access to Corindi Beach is via Ocean Street and is also the main access for locals to walk to the beach. My issue is that due to the high dunes path vehicles cannot see if people/children are walking to the beach until they are upon them. There will be a serious accident if vehicles are not restricted from using this access. Surely there is other areas, end of Mcdougall Street, that could be used for vehicle access. This would also limit the amount of vehicles travelling north of Ocean Street.

    12Nissanp asked over 1 year ago

    Thank you for your comments. The Ocean Street access issue has been raised by others too and the consultation report to Council will include all issues raised during the consultation period. Unfortunately the McDougall Street option has numerous and costly challenges due to the height of the dunes.