Some Cape Reinga daytrippers got more excitement than they had bargained for last week when their tour bus drivers had problems getting off 90 Mile Beach at Waipapakauri Ramp.
Mayor John Carter, who lives within metres of the ramp, was amongst those who helped push a number of buses off the beach on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but that seems likely to be the only assistance the tour companies, and others who drive on the beach, can expect from the Far North District Council.
Mr Carter said the approaches to the ramp were currently very soft, but the council had given up trying to maintain it.
"We've spent a huge amount of money on the ramp over the years, but it's pointless," he said.
"Whatever we do the sea always wins, and there is no point in ratepayers spending more."
The council was legally responsible for maintaining the road to the ramp but not the ramp itself, although the beach was technically a state highway.
"The cost has been huge," Mr Carter said.
"Every time we bring it back up to a decent standard it costs the ratepayers $10,000 or $20,000, and we've been spending that sort of sum multiple times every year. Then after a couple of high tides it's back in its original condition. It's a waste of money.
"I don't know what the answer is," he added, "but it's unrealistic to expect ratepayers to keep forking out."
The only other beach access and exit points useable by buses are Te Paki Stream, at the northern end, and Hukatere, 16km north of Waipapakauri Ramp, which necessitates driving through Te Hiku forest to SH1 at Pukenui. Ahipara is even more difficult to negotiate than the ramp.
Kaitaia tour company Harrison's Cape Runner does not have an issue with the ramp, however. Murray Harrison said the company had adapted its vehicles, which were now 4WD, to the conditions, as had another local tour company, Petricevich Buses.
Mr Harrison believed that access to the beach should be restricted to four-wheel-drives.
"The beach is no place for cars, and if they can't get on to the beach, so much the better," he said.