When the Marfells gifted their family beach to the Government, they were hoping the public would get the same fun riding their "horse and cart" on the sand as they had.

But these days, almost a century on, the family today fears Marfells Beach will become "dead" and void of enjoyment if plans to ban quad bikes along Marlborough's east coast are approved.

The Marlborough District Council agreed to draft a bylaw in November after conservationists said drivers were damaging the coast, lifted by the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake. Consultation is set for March or April this year.

The Marfell family fears the proposed quad bike ban could make their old haunt
The Marfell family fears the proposed quad bike ban could make their old haunt "dead". Photo / Chloe Randford, LDR

Maurice Marfell said the proposed bylaw, set to bar vehicles from the Awatere River mouth to the Ure River mouth, was "bloody crazy".

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The 92-year-old gifted 24 hectares of his land, including "up to the high tide mark" at Marfells Beach, to the Crown in 1959.

His grandfather, Richard Marfell, gifted 1.2 hectares to the Crown, in what is now the beach campsite, in the 1920s, he said.

"It [Marfells Beach and the surrounding area] was given to the people of Marlborough through the Crown," Maurice Marfell said.

"It's true, quad bikes were not thought of when we gave the land to the public, but if they can walk, then why should they not be able to take a vehicle? I can't see them doing harm on the beach, because the tide goes over the tracks every day."

Tyre tracks on Marfells Beach where quad bikes have been driven. Photo / Chloe Ranford, LDR
Tyre tracks on Marfells Beach where quad bikes have been driven. Photo / Chloe Ranford, LDR

The council's technical report, which informed the proposed bylaw, said there would be "long-term consequences" if uncontrolled vehicle access continued along the coast.

The report, which took 18 months to complete, pulled together scientific data on the east coast from several sources, such as the Department of Conservation (DOC), and Forest and Bird.

It recommended speed limits be imposed at Marfells Beach and Ward Beach, so four-wheel-drives could still launch boats.

Council environmental scientist Peter Hamill said the report did not take into consideration the views of the Marfell family.

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Brett Marfell, 69, said his father, Maurice's cousin, recalled travelling to Marfells Beach by horse and cart, and having "a big Christmas do" each summer.

"They used to use the carts and travel along the sand in those days, but that's gone now. The uplift has changed the area completely ... people can go right around the cape now."

Ken Marfell, another cousin of Maurice, estimated most of the Marfell family had signed a petition hoping to kill the proposed bylaw, which had gathered more than 1400 signatures.

The Marlborough District Council is looking to ban vehicles from 45 kilometres of the region's east coast. Photo / Chloe Ranford, LDR
The Marlborough District Council is looking to ban vehicles from 45 kilometres of the region's east coast. Photo / Chloe Ranford, LDR

"My major concern about banning quad bike access to the beaches is safety ... If they ban them, then people are going to go around the coast on small boats," the 79-year-old said.

His "good friend" Robbie Taylor had died while boating off the Cape Cambell reef several decades ago, he said.

His wife, Shirley Marfell, said it was "ludicrous" for the council to say quad bikes were "annihilating" dotterels and their nests.

"There are just a few quad bikers, not hundreds of thousands of vehicles. If the ban's approved, the beach will become dead, and no-one will get enjoyment out of it," Shirley said.

Craig Marfell, son of Ken, said there were ways of controlling motor vehicles, without putting down a bylaw.

"The beach is a public road, where police can and do go on and check ... Even on the road people break the law. You're never going to be able to stop everyone from doing that.

"It's not a council issue, it's a policing issue."

The technical report said the coast was an 'unformed legal road', which meant the council could stop the road, prohibit or restrict vehicle use, or impose speed limits on the road.

"This [proposed bylaw] is taking away people's rights. I think if this was approved, there would be knock-on effects in all of New Zealand, so we need to take this seriously," Craig said.

The report also said the east coast was home to the red katipō, New Zealand's only native venomous spider, which was declining in numbers due to a loss of vegetation above the high tide mark.

A draft bylaw would be taken to the council in February or March, before a month-long consultation from March or April.