Tide warning after 5 cars trapped on beach

By Peter de Graaf

An incident in which five vehicles, including a near-new Commodore, got stuck on Ninety Mile Beach is a reminder to check the tides before driving on the beach, police say.

Kaitaia acting Senior Sergeant Brian Swann said the vehicles were caught out north of Hukatere by an extra high tide about 1.30pm on Wednesday.

The vehicles were a Holden Commodore, a four-wheel-drive and two people movers, one a 4x4 and the other a regular two-wheel drive. A fifth vehicle got into similar difficulties 5-10km further north.

All managed to get to higher ground, with assistance from the police and AA's Roadside Rescue, and were freed once the tide receded.

One vehicle, understood to be the Commodore, was partly inundated. At least some of the occupants were overseas tourists. It is not known whether the vehicles were on private outings or commercial tours.

Mr Swann said while the beach was considered a road, it was not a road that could be accessed at all times.

``Drivers should check the tides beforehand - and if you don't know if the tide is coming or going out, don't go driving on the beach.''

Mr Swann said most 4x4s could manage the beach without difficulty, but two-wheel-drives were not suitable for sand.

In an inquest late last year into the death of a Far North man after his vehicle aquaplaned and rolled on Ninety Mile Beach, Northland coroner Brandt Shortland said the beach was ''inherently dangerous''. It was a recognised road with a speed limit of 100km/h but conditions were always changing depending on tides, weather and sand.

According to Niwa, the five days from January 11-15 were ''red alert days'' for king tides. Wednesday's high tide at Ahipara reached 1.42m, higher than normal but not as high as Sunday's 1.64m.

- Northern Advocate

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