Call to ban cars on popular family beaches

Beachgoers are calling for better regulation of vehicles being driven on beaches, and in some cases banning them from popular family spots. 

Beaches are classed as roads in New Zealand if there is public access to them, but vehicles are banned from the majority of beaches unless they are part of surf life-saving or launching a boat. 

There are exceptions though, most beaches in Northland can be driven along. Muriwai and Kariotahi beaches in Auckland can also be driven on with a permit, as can certain beaches in the Bay of Plenty. 

They are governed by the same rules as roads - cars must be licenced, speed limits observed and people should drive safely.  

Last year Forest and Bird called for a complete ban on recreational vehicles being driven on beaches to protect the many species of birds they argued were being threatened by wayward driving. 

Many drivers have a legitimate reason to travel along a beach, to access remote fishing or camping spots for example. But many are accused of just hooning along the sand and beachgoers have had enough. 

Peka Peka Beach is one of two beaches in the Kapiti coast where drivers can take their cars on the sand and local resident Sarah Jane Freeman-Judd told AM she was fed up with cars tearing up the popular spot. 

Freeman-Judd has lived at the beach since 1988 and said the problem is getting worse. 

"The families and fishermen are great but the people coming here in their 4-wheel drives and bikes are not coming to see the beauty of the area, they are just coming to race and tear up the beach. 

"They don't care, they just come here to be annoying. 

"It affects the environment, we have dotterels nesting, it is affecting the families with the children. It is the speed as well, they speed. One was doing around 100km/h past my house." 

She said there is a sign on the beach saying the speed limit is 10km/h.

Freeman-Judd told AM she reports incidents to the police but said she is often told they can't go on the beach. She said they might drive by and do a circuit of the beach but then leave. 

She has confronted the drivers herself but was threatened with violence. 

"I have tried to talk to them and it hasn't worked out. I am on my own and it is very frightening. They are not coming here to sunbathe and they are aggressive. 

"I was threatened to be punched in the face and it was very frightening".

Freeman-Judd told AM she doesn't object to people driving on the beach, she just wants action when the rules are broken. 

Wellington City Counsellor Ben McNulty went further calling the car culture on the beach "pure garbage' in a tweet. 

McNulty spent time at Waitārere Beach in the Horowhenua District over Christmas and told AM the number of cars on the sand made him fear for the safety of his two-year-old son. 

He said he had to wait for cars to drive past so he could get to the water to fill his son's bucket up. 

AM host Ryan Bridge asked if the people driving those cars had a right to enjoy the beach as well. 

McNulty said he was talking about the flagged area of the beach, the main area families used. 

"That is the area I am worried about. There were hundreds of families and kids. We can easily say there is an excluded zone. 

"If you want to go away from the busy areas then that is fine. It doesn't need a hard ban, just better decisions from councils." 

Kapiti Council and police have been approached for comment.