Dune and dusted

Trailbikes are ripping up our fragile dunes; maybe it’s time to ban all motorbikes from the beach.

Trailbikes gouge the fragile dunes detail. Photo 23 August 2017 08:51..

Waikawa Beach has many wonderful sand dunes. There’s the privately owned land across the footbridge, the whole area north to Kuku Beach and the area to the south of the river and down to the boundary with Kapiti and beyond.

Sand dune by the estuary.
Sand dune by the estuary.

Some, or maybe all, of the dunes are eroding as wind and tides take their toll, like the area just to the north of the vehicle entrance which has lost several metres in the last year or two.

Eroding dunes by the vehicle entrance.
Eroding dunes by the vehicle entrance. Spot the sagging fence posts.

That erosion is an issue the Ratepayers Association is currently discussing with affected landowners, the Horowhenua District Council, Horizons Regional Council and other interested parties.

Waikawa Beach has long been part of a road connecting Whanganui with Wellington. In earlier times it was where the stagecoach ran, along with drovers, farmers taking produce for sale, settlers moving to new homes, swaggers and pedlers. See Spanking down the level beach, in a horse-drawn coach for an excerpt from a historical account.

The beach is still a road.
The beach is still a road.

Like any road, though, there are rules, including not driving carelessly. And the one about where you may drive on the beach: below the latest high tide mark, and absolutely not on the dunes.

Waikawa Beach vehicle entry sign: no vehicles on the dunes.
Waikawa Beach vehicle entry sign: no vehicles on the dunes.

Thanks to motorbikes in the dunes on the private land north of the river the Council installed bike bars at the footbridge. Some say those bars haven’t worked to keep bikes out, while others find they cause quite an annoyance to people legitimately trying to cross the bridge.

By now you can guess where this blog post is going, I’m sure …

Trailbikes on the beach, 10 July 2017, 1.30 pm.
Trailbikes on the beach, 10 July 2017, 1.30 pm.

I suspect that the motorbikes are finding the bike bars a disincentive as now riders come through the vehicle entrance and down to the sensitive area of new dunes where the north entrance from Reay Mackay Grove exits onto the beach.

We hear the bikes roaring around on the sand, and next day we see proof that they didn’t stick to the area below the high tide mark. Instead they do circuits in the area where the dunes are most sensitive to damage, most vulnerable.

Trailbike tracks by the north entrance, 23 August 2017 at 08:35.
Trailbike tracks by the north entrance, 23 August 2017 at 08:35.

Locals have taken to carting large chunks of driftwood and placing them in spots intended to deter the riders. It’s a huge area to cover and hard work. Some of the results are very impressive, and quite effective.

Blocking bikes from the dunes with driftwood.
Blocking bikes from the dunes with driftwood.

But then the riders change the nature of their sport, seeming almost to deliberately seek out all the most fragile dunes and ride right over the tops of them, scouring huge gouges in the sand and getting right to the roots of the vegetation.

Trailbikes gouge the fragile dunes. Photo 23 August 2017 08:51.
Trailbikes gouge the fragile dunes. Photo 23 August 2017 08:51.

Trailbikes gouge the fragile dunes detail. Photo 23 August 2017 08:51..
Trailbikes gouge the fragile dunes — detail. Photo 23 August 2017 08:51.

It’s heartbreaking to come to the end of the track from Reay Mackay Grove and see deep tire marks all round, all over the dunes, knowing that every single attack weakens the dune, makes it more vulnerable to wind, rain and tide.

Once one person tears it up doing a few laps and donuts, then others take it as free rein.

That quote from Vehicles turn Waikawa camp to mud sums it up. The result in the end is that our dunes erode and disappear. Just a few kilometres up the road such riders have created a muddy morass. Our dunes won’t turn to mud, but they’ll blow away if we don’t care for them.

A popular camping ground in Horowhenua has been turned into a muddy morass by drivers of four-wheel drive vehicles, quad and dirt bikes, raising local fears of an accident waiting to happen.

The Waikawa Stream Recreational Reserve at the end of Manakau North Rd, part of the Tararua Forest Park, has had a campsite for more than 30 years. The back campsite is now almost unrecognisable as a once-pristine camping area.

Vehicles have seriously damaged land at the Waikawa Stream Recreation Reserve campsite
Vehicles have seriously damaged land at the Waikawa Stream Recreation Reserve campsite
Linton Menzies, a regular campsite user, has seen drivers tearing up the site and been threatened, even having a gun pointed at him when he’s tried to intervene.

Down at Kapiti all motorbikes are banned from the beach. Perhaps we could make that happen here.

Kapiti ban motorbikes from the beach.
Kapiti ban motorbikes from the beach.

If you see trailbikes heading for our beach stay safe, but if you can, remind the riders they must stay below the high tide mark and keep their speed down. Taking photos of riders who go onto the dunes may help us work out who’s doing this and find ways to prevent them from doing it in future.

Story and all photos by Miraz Jordan.

3 thoughts on “Dune and dusted”

  1. The very 1st thing I need to say is that this “blog” is absolutely nothing to do with the WBRA as we have a policy of NO SOCIAL MEDIA on the website and certainly not on the newsletter.
    This Blog is purely Miraz Jordan and has not been discussed with the committee and neither has the idea to Ban Bikes on the beach…!
    Many people here at the beach need the use of bikes to access the beach as did George Walker some
    35 years ago who suffered from Emphysema and owning a bike enabled him to go white baiting and enjoy the beach he loved..
    Bikes have been here for 35 years and all we need to do is to make sure people respect other beach users quiet enjoyment of Waikawa beach.
    Banning bikes is not the answer.
    Educating people is.

  2. It’s great to see you raising issues of access to the beach for people with disabilities, Lesley-Anne. It’s a problem I’d like to see us work on. I’ve recently realised that the only spot from which the public can get a good view around here is at the vehicle entrance. From that spot you can see a wonderful panorama from Kāpiti Island in the south and across the estuary, and on to the north (except for the whacking great informational sign that interrupts the view).
    If a person can’t get down onto the beach itself then that’s the spot to be: right in the middle of the road.
    A while ago I saw an older person, using a walker, plodding back from the beach itself through all that soft sand at the vehicle entrance. It looked like an extremely hard slog. Someone who appeared to be a stranger to her helped her back to the road, where she took a seat on her walker by the rubbish bin and her helper returned to the beach.
    It occurred to me then how wonderful it would be if we could create a better opportunity for folks with mobility issues to enjoy our beach. I don’t know the answer, but it’s good to know you and others are concerned with this too.
    As for educating beach users: YES!

  3. Thanks Miraz and Lesley-Anne for starting off this conversation. Just like to add to these comments to support access to the beach for everyone. As we live close to the Dunes it would be good to see some clarity around the difference between Motor bikes on the beach and Motor bikes accessing the protected areas on the Dunes. It was encouraging to read in the latest newsletter that this is being looked at and I am happy to help out in any way that would be useful. Debra Betts.

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