A 5-year-old girl who fell from the back of a moving ute on Porangahau Beach last week has provided a timely reminder that road rules apply to beaches as well.
Suffering a concussion and skin abrasions she was flown to hospital in the the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter with her father, after the helicopter was called to the scene at 8pm on Wednesday last week. She was discharged from Hawke's Bay Hospital on Saturday.
Porangahau Senior Constable John Singer said his investigation was incomplete but it appeared to be an unfortunate accident.
"Most people do have good sense but sometimes they get a bit relaxed with it. These people are local people, familiar with the area. This kid has possibly been sitting on a ute before and on this occasion chose to stand and there was a bump or something and she toppled off.
"There is nothing sinister in it - they weren't clowning around and the parents weren't being idiots from what I can gather."
Mr Singer said charges or an infringement notice could be laid and it was a timely reminder to all people that all road rules applied on beaches.
"A beach is still a public road and rules do apply. A lot of parents will seatbelt in their kid into a car and put cycle helmets on them for most of the year and then in summer they bring them down to the beach and put them on four-wheelers wearing jandals and T-shirts or put them in the backs of utes. They can be held accountable under the Transport Act.
"There is the offence of riding in a dangerous position and allowing to ride in a dangerous position."
He said drink-driving on beaches could also be a problem.
"Years ago I charged a girl on a four-wheeler, drunk as a skunk, who hit a rock in the wee hours of the morning going between a couple of beaches down here and put her friend into intensive care. She was charged with drink-driving causing injury."
On Sunday a 13-year-old with back injuries from a motorbike accident was airlifted to Hawke's Bay Hospital from Aramoana Beach. Last January a 54-year-old man on a quad bike smashed into a boat while it was being launched at the Clifton Marine Club boat ramp, breaking his arm and ribs.
On New Year's Day in 2005 an 18-year-old student died when he was run over by a car after falling off the bonnet of another car at Aramoana beach.
Many beaches have traffic laws enacted by councils, but not in Central Hawke's Bay.
Hastings District Council has banned vehicles from Waimarama beach this summer from 8am-6pm.
Mr Singer said: "People need to be reminded that police do check beaches and we expect to see the same safety practices on the beach as would be on the road." The Land Transport Act 1998 defines a road as "a place to which the public have access, whether as of right or not".
"Farm tracks can be a public road'," he added.
Mr Singer said the parents of the 5-year-old-girl were very upset but he was confident she would fully recover.
"She's a resilient child."