Vehicles On Beaches
Four-wheel drives and motorbikes are becoming more
popular. Unfortunately they can have a dramatic effect on the
natural character of our beautiful beaches.
Some people take their four-wheel drives, dune buggies and
motorbikes down to the beach to speed along the hard sand, drive to
a favourite fishing spot, or to climb up and down the dunes.
These vehicles are damaging the Bay of Plenty's coastal environment
that the vehicle users and other beach users are enjoying.
Some beaches have been restored through careful re-sculpting,
replanting and pest control, but other parts of the coast are still
in poor condition. Vehicle use also conflicts with other
activities on the beach, like sunbathing and children playing in
- Rules for when and where
vehicles are allowed on the region's beaches
- Making a complaint for contact
details and information about who to contact in different
Dune plants are very hardy plants. They gather sand,
shelter birds, and withstand wind and waves. But they are
very sensitive to a heavy vehicle driving over them. All
motor vehicles can kill plants with a single pass, and even the
wide flotation tyres of quad bikes crush and destroy plants.
Vehicles compact the sand, squashing small creatures that live on
or under the sand and compressing their habitat. They
frighten away birds, lizards and other species sheltering in the
dunes, and crush their nests and eggs. Weeds and pest animals
spread through the damaged ecosystem. Drivers dump litter and
waste material from their vehicles onto the beach and dunes.
The first vehicle does the most damage - so even though the
majority of drivers on beaches may be responsible, the less
responsible minority greatly harm the coastal environment.
Once the dune plants are destroyed, the foredunes and rear dunes
are exposed to the wind and the sand begins to blow away.
Once a "blow out" forms on a dune, the dune begins to disappear
quickly, blown inland. The waves begin to erode the beach and
dune because there are no plants to rebuild them with sand.
This increases the hazard risk to people living near the
beach. Without the dunes, waves erode the beach and the land
at a much faster rate. Homes have more sand blown onto
them. Storm surges and possibly tsunami are more likely to
damage homes and property.
Beach user conflict
Vehicles on beaches can cause problems with other beach
users. People using popular beaches for swimming, sunbathing,
fishing, playing sports or simply enjoying can be concerned about
vehicles driving at unsafe speeds and/or too close to children
and unaware beachgoers.
The safety of the vehicle drivers themselves is also
important. Driving a four-wheel drive along the beach is
different to driving through towns or on roads. Drivers
without the necessary skills or care can risk damaging their
vehicle, themselves, or others.
Some people think that the special qualities of the beach that
New Zealanders love are threatened by increased vehicle use on the
beach. The tyre tracks, the noise, conflict with other users
and damage to the dunes are all contrary to enjoying the coastal
Who is responsible?
The following organisations are responsible for managing
vehicles on beaches:
- Bay of Plenty Regional Council looks at integrated management
of the coastal environment, particularly the coastal marine area
(seaward of mean high water springs). The Regional Coastal
Environment Plan contains a rule for vehicles on the foreshore
("wet" beach) and coastal vehicle management policies.
- The four coastal territorial authorities: Tauranga City
Council, Western Bay of Plenty, Whakatane District Council and
Opotiki District Council are responsible for managing vehicle use
on beaches within their district.
- The Department of Conservation sets national policies on
coastal management, and also manage their coastal reserves at a
local level. They protect native birds and animals that are
threatened or endangered. The Bay of Plenty Conservancy
(Tauranga area, Rangitaiki area) and the East Coast/Hawkes Bay
Conservancy (Opotiki area) cover the Bay of Plenty beaches.
- The Police regulate dangerous behaviour and illegal vehicle use
(like speeding, drink driving, licences), on beaches as well as on
roads. They can prosecute criminal behaviour and bylaw
If you have questions about the planning process to review
management of vehicles on beaches, contact Bay of Plenty Regional
Council - details below.