Dune and dusted

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

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.

Keeping the peace, with bike bars

Wonderful things about Waikawa Beach include the peace and quiet, and that it’s a safe place for pedestrians to stroll around, enjoying the environment.

Over the bridge is a (private) forest and wonderland of dunes to explore. It’s a great place for kids, and dogs especially. Thanks to the Walkers who own it for letting us all enjoy this space.

Waikawa River at the bridge.

Waikawa River at the bridge, looking north.

There’s nothing relaxing though about motorbikes roaring around in the area, tearing up sand and vegetation. Parents and dog owners worry that a bike will appear over a dune or around a corner without warning and run down their loved ones.

Waikawa Beach sign - private land, no vehicles.

Waikawa Beach sign – private land, no vehicles.

In an effort to keep motorbikes out there were bars across the bridge entrance, but they didn’t work very well.

In late February 2017 the Council removed those bars and installed new bars with an updated design.

Bridge bars, looking north, with bike.

Bridge bars, looking north, with bike.

The bars allow a narrow passage, wide enough for a bicycle but too narrow for a motorbike.

Bridge bars, with bike for size.

Bridge bars, with bike for size.

Pedestrians can still go through the middle or around the sides.

Bridge bars, from the bridge.

Bridge bars, from the bridge.

Thanks to the Council for helping protect the environment and the people who want to enjoy it in peace.

Do you have any feedback on the new bars? Are they working for you? Let us know in the comments.