A controversial bylaw which may ban drivers from beaches along a 45-kilometre stretch of coastline has been given the go ahead by council.
Marlborough District Council staff agreed earlier this week to draw up a bylaw banning drivers from the Awatere River mouth to the Ure River mouth.
The move comes after concerned residents implored council to take action to protect threatened indigenous species.
But the plan has “staggered” some of those who routinely use some of the access roads and beaches.
Council strategic planner Sarah Edmonds says increased access was hampering the recovery of the environment.
“There will be long-term damage if vehicle access continues.
In a report presented to council’s planning, finance and communities committee on Thursday, Sarah says the council has a “duty” to control vehicle access.
The report proposed cutting off beach access to vehicles, from Redwood Pass to Ward, and introducing a speed limit at Marfells Beach and Ward Beach, where boats could still be launched.
The bylaw would also restrict vehicles on unformed roads.
Marlborough Angling and Surfcasting Club president David Miller says he was “staggered” the bylaw was approved.
“I can’t believe it. They can’t close beaches off like that.”
David, who fished along the stretch at least 10 times a year, was also part of a group that cycled the coastline.
“Recently we cycled to the lighthouse and had a picnic. We were on the sand, so we were no damage to the environment.”
He had previously attended a meeting in Ward where members had discussed their concerns about quad bikes running over dotterel birds and their nests, before suggesting a vehicle ban.
“I said all beaches are legally public roads and that the council didn’t have the authority to restrict access to a beach like that.”
He would encourage the club’s 70 members to object during the bylaw’s consultation period, which had not yet been given a set date, he says.
A fisherman, who did not want to be named, said someone would end up “drowning or getting hurt” trying to access areas on their boat close to reefs, which were previously accessible on a quad.
“The new bylaw means you can only launch small boats from, say, Marfells Beach, but it’s rough there at the best of times.”
Forest and Bird top of the south regional manager Debs Martin said the news was received with excitment, but resignation.
“We know we’ll have another summer of damage along the shore in the interim, while the bylaw is being drafted.”
Councillor Cynthia Brooks says it was a “significant day” for the council.
“There’s a lot of history around vehicle use on the coastline, but it’s not the coastline it was three years ago, and it’s under threat.
“It’s one of the few wildernesses left in this country.”