Last Warning for South Coast Vehicle Users

28 October 2011

Vehicle access to Wellington's south coast could be stopped if trail bike and four-wheel-drive owners keep going off tracks and seriously damaging the unique and fragile environment.

More damage was done over Labour weekend but the off-road mayhem is an ongoing problem.

Wellington City Council's Natural Environment Portfolio Leader Councillor Helene Ritchie says the Council and landowners are upset at the stupid and dangerous antics of some 4WD drivers and trail bike riders using the coastal track between Owhiro Bay, Red Rocks / Pariwhero and Karori Stream.

"Some locals and walkers are calling for the road to be shut to vehicular traffic except for bach owners and special events," she says. "At this time, we don't want the irresponsible minority ruining it for the majority but if behaviour does not improve, the Council will look to further restrict vehicle access or stop it completely."

Vehicles are allowed through the gate at Owhiro Bay every day except Sunday - to allow walkers one day of unhindered access. The Council, bach and land-owners, the police and the Cross Country Vehicle Club have been working together for years to educate drivers on how to respect the South Coast environment.

But increasing activity by some vehicle users is destroying some coastal washout areas on private land past Pariwhero / Red Rocks. The coastal environment is harsh and plants take a long time to grow, and longer to recover. The area is also an important home for native lizards and birds, as well as seals, and rare insects including the spear grass weevil and the geometrid moth.

"This is a fragile coast, not a 4WD playground," she says. "Once one vehicle goes off the formed track, others tend to follow their wheel marks. Once you've had five vehicles over something, the damage is very difficult to make good. As well as the damage to plant and animal habitats, huge tyre tracks make it look vandalised."

Local landowners are also upset at people illegally accessing their properties from the coastal track. Private property signs have been shot at and driven over.

"Like us, they value the coast and its unique environment and are upset at the environmental damage," Cr Ritchie says.