'Absolute tools': destructive visitors renew 4WD debate
HOONS captured on video swerving along a stretch of beach at South Ballina have been condemned.
Ballina man Mark Ross was camping with a group on a property near the beach, north of Broadwater National Park, when he witnessed a group of about six four-wheel-drive vehicles behaving in a dangerous manner.
Mr Ross said the group of men appeared to be camping illegally near Boundary Creek Rd.
They were driving erratically along the beach, he said.
"They were just being absolute tools," Mr Ross said.
"They were fishtailing and doing circles all the way up the beach."
Mr Ross said a key concern was that of the children who were with his group.
He feared the group may not see youngsters running along the beach as they undertook "dangerous manoeuvres", which he described as "really irresponsible".
The video he posted to social media, which depicts four vehicles swerving across the sand, has been met with varied responses, from those saying they avoided the beach because it didn't feel safe, to others suggesting there was no problem with the behaviour.
But the issue of a minority of drivers, predominantly visitors to the region, flouting the rules at South Ballina have repeatedly been raised at Ballina Shire Council meetings.
Richard Gates last month fronted the council with concerns about "significant damage to the beach and its ecology", including declining pied oystercatcher and pippie numbers, as a result of bad behaviour displayed by some while Cr Sharon Cadwallader shared photos of tyre marks damaging the dunes and rubbish littering the coastal strip.
At that meeting, councillors voted to further consult on how to address the issue after a similar discussion about "sand-bashing" visitors last November.
Mayor David Wright said problems at the beach were becoming "worse and worse".
Cr Wright said closing the beach to vehicles due to the "selfish" actions of some may be possible, but an increase in ranger patrols had also been floated.
He said police had been "really good" but acknowledged there was a limit to how much the beach, the second longest in the state, could be patrolled.
The stretch of beach is effectively under National Parks and Wildlife Service control and has experienced a noted increase in traffic as other beaches, including those interstate, are closed to 4WDs.
"We're happy to work with Richmond Valley council and the police," Cr Wright said.
He said a permit system, like the one already in place at Lighthouse Beach, was also possible.
Mr Ross said to see the beach closed off entirely would be a shame.
"There's already permits at (Lighthouse Beach) and if this sort of behaviour keeps going on they'll put permits in (at South Ballina) or close it," he said.
"For people that do have 4WDs, it is a great beach, you can drive all the way to Evans Head. They're just going to ruin it for everyone else."