Tighter policing of existing traffic rules could prevent the banning of vehicles on Waimārama Beach.
The Hastings District Council (HDC) received around 100 comments and submissions from interested locals and beach users, during Saturday’s information day at Waimārama Hall.
Pedestrian safety on the popular holiday beach has become an anecdotal issue, with local - and Hawke’s Bay regional councillor - Sophie Siers saying the behaviour of some drivers has become “incredibly disruptive, aggressive and frightening”.
Paul and Anne Gibbs are regular beach users going back more than 40 years. Fishing is their primary source of beach recreation, with the couple using a quad bike or side-by-side to launch their kontiki on countless occasions.
“And we want it to remain open to vehicles,” Paul Gibbs said.
“We’ve already got laws in place, but they’re not being policed. I’ve always understood that a beach is treated like a public road, therefore we’ve got those rules in place and we just need them policed.”
At present, driving on the beach is banned in an area in front of the surf club between 8am and 8pm from Labour Weekend until April 1. Driving at speeds over 20km/h is illegal at all times.
Provided that’s policed, the Gibbs see no reason why respectful vehicle users, such as themselves, should be penalised.
“We had the same public meeting two years ago about the same subject. Over 90 per cent said they were in favour of it staying as it is,” Anne Gibbs said.
However, there is one issue the couple - and others who attended Saturday’s meeting - want addressed.
“Concern was also raised at the need for safe vehicle access to the beach should emergency services be required," HDC public spaces and building assets manager Colin Hosford said.
“This is seen as an issue with the Tiakatai Road entry point blocked off.
“In addition most [attendees of the meeting] confirmed the need to enforce traffic rules in order to keep people safe.”
Submissions and comments on the matter are open for another two weeks. They can be offered online, via the HDC website, or left in a drop box located at the Waimārama Store.
Hosford describes the views offered so far as “diverse”.
“Key issues raised centred around concern for beach-user safety, especially children, as well as a desire to allow vehicles to travel on the beach to undertake law-abiding activities.”
Hamish Bidwell joined Hawke’s Bay Today in 2022 and works out of the Hastings newsroom.