Kapiti police deny beach bylaw crackdown

By David Haxton

PICTURESQUE: Paraparaumu Beach.
PICTURESQUE: Paraparaumu Beach.

Kapiti police have scotched suggestions they issued a series of hefty fines against people parked or driving on a popular local beach.

Paraparaumu Raumati Community Board deputy chairman Guy Burns was "exasperated by reports from locals that on Saturday police were hitting people parked or driving on Paraparaumu Beach with a massive $750 fine".

But Senior Sergeant Chanel Chapman said staff who went to the beach handed out education pamphlets and no tickets were issued.

"I think someone may well have observed this and jumped to the wrong conclusion."

The beach bylaw restricts people driving on parts of the Kapiti coastline, especially populated areas where there are lots of other users about.

Vehicles can access the beach area, such as Paraparaumu Beach, to launch or retrieve boats at designated spots or if they have specific permission to park for easier access.

People can be fined $750 for breaching the beach bylaw, which was updated a few years ago by council, though "police staff always have discretion which they are encouraged to use on every occasion," Ms Chapman said.

She said the beach bylaw had little enforcement from police since it was revised, but council and police had been to the beach a few times recently to "educate beach drivers about the rules under the bylaw".

"As far as police are concerned, our priorities are always around deployment to risk, such as risks to other beach goers and risks to those operating vehicles driving on a road surface that changes twice a day with the tides and which can also hide significant hazards.

"To police staff, the $750 infringement fee is rather excessive and I have advised them that discretion is the key.

"Rather than enforcing the bylaw, we take a road safety approach and would be more inclined to issue notices for excess speed, failing to wear restraints and impaired driving.

"The beach is policed like any other stretch of road and while speaking to drivers we have been handing out the KCDC pamphlets."

The main focus of Kapiti's beach bylaw was about "protecting public safety on our beaches," council environmental standards manager Jacqui Muir said.

"Over time there has been a growing culture of people driving vehicles on our beaches where they are not permitted.

"This is a concern for us here at the council as it is a risk to pedestrian safety and is impacting our coastal ecology.

"We have received a large number of complaints about vehicles on beaches and are responding to our communities needs by stepping up our compliance activities."

In 2014, 34 complaints were made to council about vehicles on beaches.

In 2015, 47 complaints were made to council about vehicles on beaches.

In 2016, 85 complaints were made to council about vehicles on beaches.

Council had been undertaking a join education programme along the district's beaches with police and the Ministry of Primary Industries mainly during the summer seasons since council's beach bylaw was adopted in 2009.

"It involves fortnightly patrols by council's compliance team, sometimes joined by the police, where we talk to people on beaches and provide them with take-home information about what is allowed and isn't allowed in certain areas," Ms Muir said.

"Since October 2016, our education efforts have ramped up as we've been receiving more complaints about vehicles on beaches.

"We want to stop the on-going issue of vehicles on beaches compromising public safety and our approach to date has been primarily to inform and warn drivers.

"We've been informing drivers where they are/aren't allowed to drive on beaches and we have warned continuing non-compliance may mean people are liable of being fined $750.

"We refer non-compliance to the police for infringement in the cases of repeated offending or serious hazard; to date we have not referred any such cases to the police."

Ms Muir said council was taking a number of proactive steps to ensure the public know the rules and the avoid infringement.

"This includes the summer campaigns and ramping up patrols, handing out flyers and pamphlets, improving beach signage and sharing information on our social media channels, to media and on our website about our campaign."

Mr Burns said he advised those fined $750 [though none were] to "carefully examine the basis for the bylaw and prosecution".

"Firstly KCDC bylaw used to prosecute vehicle owners allows for customary rights to be upheld and the right to use the beach as a road has been around for over 100 years.

"Secondly the beach was once a highway known as the Old Coach Rd and ownership of the area is confusing and unclear.

"There may be no legal foundation for prosecution or the bylaw on parts of the beach.

"I urge KCDC to reconsider their heavy handed stance against locals, whanau and visitors to Kapiti."

- Kapiti News

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