Calls for speed limit on beaches

By Peter de Graaf

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Ahipara residents fed up with hooning motorcycles are calling for a 30km/h speed limit on the town's beachfront.

They say the problem is escalating and threatening wildlife and tourism. During school holidays and weekends they say it's too dangerous to sit on the beach, and sooner or later someone will be killed - as happened on Ripiro Beach in 2007 when 13-year-old Daisy Fernandez died after being hit by a motorcycle.

The issue raised its head again at last week's Far North District Council meeting in Kaitaia, as councillors considered imposing a 30km/h speed limit 300m each side of Ninety Mile Beach access points at Foreshore Rd and Kaka St.

However, a group of Ahipara residents told councillors that didn't go far enough.

Ahipara Community Coast Care spokesman Doug Klever wanted the 30km/h limit to apply from Kaka St to Shipwreck Bay, a distance of 2.3km, and vehicles to stay below the high-tide mark when possible.

''The amount of dangerous driving there is just phenomenal. During certain times of the year you just can't go down to the beach safely ...

It's starting to get out of hand.''

Ahipara residents could not picnic on the beach or sit in front of their own homes, Mr Klever said. Motorbikes, quad bikes and vehicles towing people on boards (''scurfing'') were the main offenders.

''We're not asking for a ban on vehicles. We're just asking people to use the beach considerately.''

He acknowledged, however, that any rule would be hard to enforce given the number of police in the area.

Fellow resident Brian Farrant said he had been woken at 11.15pm on the night before the meeting by a motorbike ''doing its stuff'' outside his home. He estimated the rider, who had earlier spent much of the day hooning around Ahipara's back streets, was travelling at 80km/h.

People came to Ahipara to ride because they believed they could do what they liked in the Far North, Mr Farrant said. When he asked riders why they came to Ahipara they told him, ''because there's no cops here''.

Mr Klever said the area 2km south of Kaka St had long been been a conservation zone and was frequented by 28 species of birds, including the endangered New Zealand dotterel.

The group had fenced off the dunes and were waiting nervously to see if the fences and birds' nests survived the school holidays. Of 27 dotterel eggs laid in recent years, only five had hatched.

Badly behaved riders were also damaging tourism in the area, Mr Klever said.

Guests at a beachfront lodge had cancelled bookings or left early due to the noise, and if tourists asked him where they could sit safely on the beach, he had to tell them: ''Nowhere''.

Recent accidents on Ninety Mile Beach include one near Tauroa Pt in July when a 50-year-old man and his daughter, 13, suffered serious chest injuries in a quad bike crash.

 

- Northern Advocate

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