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Published: 2007-10-23 00:00:00

With summer approaching, Environment Waikato is appealing for motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles to be kept out of sand dunes on the region’s West Coast beaches for safety and environmental reasons.

The appeal follows a number of incidents in recent years, including:

  • a woman being injured when run over by a four-wheel drive while sunbathing in dunes at Raglan
  • a motorcycle leaping a sand dune at Port Waikato nearly crashing down on top of a 7-year-old girl playing with her friends
  • an accident where two motorcyclists suffered facial and leg injuries, and had to be airlifted out, after colliding at Ruapuke Beach.

The problems are most marked at Port Waikato, Kawhia and Ruapuke, said Environment Waikato’s community education facilitator Sam Stephens.

“Motorcycles and four-wheel drives in sand dunes are a potential recipe for disaster, particularly as more people take to the beaches over summer.

“The vehicles also damage the sensitive ecosystems on the dunes, threatening the stability of beaches, and can hurt birdlife.

“Our message to motorcyclists and four-wheel drive owners is simple: please stay out of the dunes because of the risk you present to people and the environment.

“We understand completely that using the dunes can be fun or convenient but the actual and potential costs are just too high.”

Mr Stephens said people were able to make complaints to police about anyone using bikes or four-wheel drives in a dangerous manner, and could also approach their local councils if they were concerned about environmental damage by vehicles.

“We advise people to get as many identifying details as they can to help police and councils follow up their complaints.

“Local councils can also provide motorcyclists, four-wheel drive owners and the public with further advice on what the specific rules are in their areas concerning vehicles on the coast.

“We need a common sense response from motorcyclists and four-wheel drive owners. Different areas have varying rules about vehicles in coastal areas but all vehicle users are obliged to act in a safe way and need to be sensitive to their environmental impact.

“Our appeal is not about trying to clamp down on people’s fun – rather it’s asking everyone to take responsibility for keeping beachgoers safe and protecting the coastal environment we all enjoy so much as New Zealanders.”