Thursday, April 25, 2024

Marlborough green light for new beach vehicle bylaw

Marlborough District Council has voted to adopt the East Coast Beach Vehicle Bylaw, which places new rules on vehicle use along Marlborough’s coastline.

Previously there were no enforced rules for vehicles on the stretch of coast from the mouth of the Awatere River south to the Waima/Ure River mouth, which has led to public safety concerns and increasing environmental damage since the Kaikōura earthquake.

Since 2020, Council has undertaken an extensive public consultation process, and the adopted vehicle bylaw largely follows its original proposal – but with recommendations for limited ATV and UTV access to 9km of the coast added by an independent hearings panel, Council said in a statement.

Over half of the coast (28.5km of the total 48.5km) from the Awatere to the Waima (Ure) River mouths is recognised as ecologically significant. It’s home to native birds, such as banded dotterels (threatened – nationally critical), the endangered katipō spider, and variable oystercatchers (at risk – recovering), as well as a place to rest and feed for international migratory birds from as far as Siberia and Canada.

“This bylaw was borne from widespread community concerns, and the public turning to Council for a solution. We have adopted the recommendations from the hearings panel, which places great responsibility on the public to be part of the solution and act as stewards of this special place,” said Mayor, Nadine Taylor.

Where there were no vehicle restrictions in place previously, the new rules which will apply from 1 July 2023 are:

  • No vehicle access on the beach from the Awatere River mouth to south of the Marfells Beach boat launching site;
  • No vehicle access from the “Airstrip” to the Ure River mouth;
  • A 9 km ‘yellow zone’, where ATV and UTVs are allowed during daylight hours, under 30 km per hour, and permissible below the mean high-water mark from Marfells Beach to the ‘airstrip’;
  • No vehicles on dunes or reefs anywhere at any time.

The Mayor said the bylaw would have no new restrictions for businesses already operating in the areas, including commercial boat launching. The intention of the hearings panel recommendations is that the bylaw would restore some equivalence to the pre-earthquake access for quad bikes with additional environmental and public safety limits, said Mayor Taylor.

“We are keeping the ATV and UTV access for the community in the area that is most popular for fishing, customary harvest and general access. In turn, we expect everyone to collectively protect the fragile dune and reef systems, as well as rare and threatened biodiversity, from vehicles while ensuring that the public remain safe,” she said.

A public consultation in 2021 resulted in 190 submissions, including 50 submitters who went before a hearings panel. The panel, two independent commissioners and Councillor David Croad, held two hearings in November 2021 and May 2022.

“How to best balance these interests has been at the heart of this bylaw process and we are asking everyone to step up and work together collectively to protect the area,” said Mayor Taylor.

The bylaw comes into effect on 1 July 2023, to allow time for signage to be erected and community education to begin. An evaluation and monitoring plan also needs to be put into place, the Mayor said.

As part of the hearing panel recommendations, Council will use this monitoring and evaluation to review the bylaw’s effectiveness after three years, which is an earlier review than most bylaws, which are after a minimum of five years.

Visit the Council website for more information about the bylaw consultation process, including the full recommendations report from the hearings panel.

See www.marlborough.govt.nz/your-council/bylaws/proposed-east-coast-beach-vehicle-bylaw.

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