ABOVE: Driving on Airforce Beach could come to an end if some drivers continue to disrespect the beach rules. This photo in no way implies this car wasn’t doing the right thing.
Councillor Robert Hayes wants vehicles banned from Airforce Beach from 9pm–5am.
If that action doesn’t curb the bad behaviour of drivers, he wants the beach closed to cars permanently.
At the Richmond Valley Council meeting on Tuesday, February 21, Mr Hayes said closing the beach was a last resort.
“This has been a thorn in our side for some time,” he said.
“It’s time to do something and it has to be firm.”
Councillor Debbie McGillan said some drivers on the beach simply drove too fast.
During the recent Christmas and New Year period, council rangers issued 109 penalty infringement notices and 33 cautions at Evans Head for illegal camping or speeding on the beach.
Signs at the beach and padlocks have been removed many times at access points.
This costs the council a lot of money and it is looking at more robust vandal-proof ways to restrict beach access.
Mr Hayes was adamant something needed to be done.
He wanted his time restrictions along with the beach closure (if nothing improves in six months) to be added as amendments to the council’s Review of Increased Ranger Patrols on the beach.
It isn’t that simple, though.
Council’s general manager Vaughan Macdonald said the council did not have the power to close the beach because it is crown land.
He said it would need to consult with crown lands, National Parks and the police then come back with a report to councillors.
“We may need to consider some vehicle access for emergency vehicles and commercial fishers,” Mr Macdonald said,
Mayor Robert Mustow said council also needed to consult with the community.
Mr Mustow suggested the amendment be changed so that council staff prepare a report for councillors on beach access that included possible restrictions.
“If we don’t do something soon, there’s going to be an accident – and it’s going to be fatal,” Mr Hayes said.
Councillor Sam Cornish said it was “clearly a sensitive issue” that came up regularly.
Mr Mustow said because other areas were closing their beaches to driving, more people were coming to Airforce Beach.
He agreed that council needed to do something.