Skip to main content


Home > Our region and environment > Coast > Vehicles On Beaches > Vehicles On Beaches - Rules

Vehicles On Beaches - Rules

  • No vehicle use at all (without a consent) in the Coastal Habitat Preservation Zone (CHPZ) in the coastal marine areas. This is all zones coloured pink with horizontal stripes - see the planning maps.
  • Vehicles can drive on the foreshore (area below spring high tide - the "wet", firm sand part) for these activities:
    • Surf life saving operations.
    • Emergency situations, including (but not restricted to) fire fighting, oil spills, rescue operations, salvage of vessels and sea mammal strandings.
    • Burial of dead animals washed up on the foreshore.
    • Removal of litter, nuisance matter, driftwood and debris which may affect navigation and safety of vessels.
    • Launching or retrieval of vessels.
    • Transporting recreational equipment to the water's edge.
    • Coastcare projects.
    • Beach grooming undertaken by either a district council or its agents.
    • New Zealand Defence Force temporary military training activities, provided that Bay of Plenty Regional Council, the Department of Conservation and adjacent territorial authorities have been advised before the training takes place.
    • Local authority, Government, and educational institution data collection, monitoring, maintenance and law enforcement activities, provided the vehicles do not exceed 1.8 tonnes kerb weight.
  • Otherwise vehicle users need a consent from Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

Remember - The rules that apply to vehicles on the road (obey the speed limits, no drink driving etc.) also apply to vehicle use on the beach. The police can enforce these rules on the beach the same as on a legal road.

Vehicles on beaches rules for the coastal district and city councils

Follow the links below for the relevant rules and information about vehicles on beaches in your district:

Tauranga City Council: Rules for beaches from Wairoa River outlet to the Kaituna River cut (as of 1 March 2009)

Western Bay of Plenty District Council: Rules for beaches from Te Puru creek north of Waihi Beach to Otamarakau, minus the Tauranga City Council area (please refer to Section 10 of the bylaw)

Whakatane District Council: Rules for beaches from Otamarakau to Ohope Spit

Opotiki District Council: Rules for beaches from Ohiwa to Cape Runaway

Coordinating Methods and Rules

Bay of Plenty Regional Council, territorial authorities and Department of Conservation are working together on a set of methods and rules for vehicles on beaches that are consistent across the Bay of Plenty. This is difficult, because vehicles in the coastal environment cross a number of management boundaries: high-tide/low-tide marks, foreshore/dunes, regional/district jurisdiction, social effects/environmental effects, Resource Management Act/Local Government Act/other Acts.

But regardless of the final regulation and management systems that are used, the intent is to have rules that are practical, consistent across the region, and easy to understand.

General principles

The Resource Management Act requires local authorities to recognise and provide for, as matters of national importance:

  • Preserving the natural character of the coastal environment.
  • Protecting areas of significant native vegetation and native animals.
  • Maintaining and enhancing public access to and along the coastal marine area.

So while there is a general principle that vehicles are not compatible with the sensitive coastal environment, this must be balanced with public access to the beach and ocean.

  • Therefore the focus of rules controlling vehicles on beaches in the future may be:
  • No vehicles on coastal dunes.
  • No vehicles in areas with regionally important populations of rare native species (like harbour edges and some sandy spits.
  • Where there is pedestrian access to the beach (Waihi Beach, Ohope, Mt Maunganui), vehicles only use official accessways to transport boats or other craft on and off the beach. This is to minimise conflict between vehicles and beach users.
  • Where there is limited access to the coast, and there are few other beach users (Matata Straights), vehicles may drive along the foreshore (the area between low tide and the spring tide mark) to their destination, using the shortest possible route from the nearest official accessway to their destination.  The spring tide mark is around the line of heavy debris and branches thrown up by storms, close to the toe of the foredune.
  • There should be some exceptions for emergency services, council officers and other vehicle use for public benefit.
  • Any vehicle use on beaches outside of the above points may need approval from the district council or Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

Official accessways

Across the Bay of Plenty beaches there are lots of vehicle access routes to the beach. Some are official access points, with signs, sand ladders and fences protecting the dunes. But many others are unofficial, carved up by vehicles driving up and down the beach. The four territorial authorities are improving the official accessways, and trying to close off the unofficial accessways to limit further environmental damage. Some unofficial accessways may be suitable for converting into official accessways, with signs and facilities like carparking and toilets to encourage their use.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council and territorial authorities will map the official accessways and signpost them across the region, so vehicle drivers can easily find out the best routes to get to their favourite fishing spot, or other coastal activity.


Bay of Plenty Regional Council can issue fines to people breaking the regional foreshore rule. The four coastal territorial authorities can forward people to the district court for a fine for breaching their rules. The police have a wide range of powers, like instant fines, court action and arrest for people acting dangerously or illegally.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council and territorial authorities are requesting greater powers from Central Government to issue instant fines to vehicle owners for rule breaking. These would help encourage the uncaring minority of vehicle drivers on the beach to drive within the rules to reduce hazard and safety risks and to protect the coastal environment.