The west coast community want better policing along New Zealand's longest drivable beach to protect people and wildlife, a recent survey by Kaipara District Council (KDC) shows.
The public engagement survey received more than 1700 responses with nearly half of people observing reckless behaviour, speeding and dangerous driving on Ripiro, the west coast's 107km long beach.
The survey results come as seals are popping out of the water and on to beaches and other areas around Northland.
"A survey of beach users found most users have raised concerns that relate to road safety policing matters, tied into environmental concerns relating to damage done to the beach environment," KDC's executive summary of the survey reads. "More education and policing of driver behaviour and shellfish gathering is desired."
Photographs of a seal surrounded by tyre tracks just a few hundred metres north of the Baylys Beach entrance to Ripiro Beach on Sunday show how easily wildlife can be put at risk by motorists.
The seal doesn't appear to be well and the tyre tracks indicate that people would have driven within centimetres of its head.
A spokesperson for the Department of Conservation (DoC) said the seal might be a sub-adult male that is severely emaciated but couldn't confirm it with certainty.
"People driving on the beach need to take particular care as seals and their pups often come ashore to rest this time of year, and can blend in well with the sand."
DoC advises the public to stay at least 20m from any seals they encounter, and to keep dogs and children away from them.
They are also asking for people to exercise with the utmost caution – particularly after dark – not just for mammals but also ground-nesting seabirds.
Graeme Ramsey, long-time Baylys Beach resident and former Kaipara District mayor, said the rules for locals were to give wildlife as much space as possible and let nature take its course.
"What locals would probably say is to keep dogs and cars away from seals and other wildlife. It stresses them enormously," Ramsey said.
"We're at the time of the year where we frequently get seals coming to shore either to rest or because they are sick or injured."
He said it was a minority of beachgoers who showed reckless behaviour.
Ripiro Beach is considered a state highway and national rules, including the 100km/h speed limit, apply.
On either side of the Baylys Beach and Glinks Gully beach entrances there is a 30km/h speed limit in place.
In the KDC survey, respondents reported a significant increase of users as well as some antisocial behaviour.
While there was strong opposition to restricting vehicle access, the community asked for better policing of driver behaviour, environmental protection, and education on beach use.
"We have regulations for the beach at the moment but they are not enforced," Ramsey said.
"If they were, then most problems would go away."
The management of Ripiro crosses several jurisdictions, including KDC, DoC, Northland Regional Council, New Zealand Police and mana whenua.
Anyone who sees a seal or other native wildlife injured or at risk should call the DoC hotline on 0800 DOC HOT/0800 362 46.