What Is The Closest Beach

Beach-goers are being urged to consider the limitations of their vehicles after more than 40 cars were towed off the sand in one day.

Visitors swarmed to Himatangi Beach on New Year’s Day, but many got stuck, blocking access and frustrating community members.

With the Himatangi Big Dig on this Saturday there are fears of the chaos being repeated.

Russell Neal​, a volunteer for Himatangi Beach Community Patrol, towed 42 cars from the beach on January 1.

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The entrance to Himatangi Beach was forced to go one-way because of improper parking, increasing the risk of blockages.
SuppliedThe entrance to Himatangi Beach was forced to go one-way because of improper parking, increasing the risk of blockages.

He wants visitors to be more mindful, especially over Wellington Anniversary and Waitangi weekends, both guaranteed a wave of tourists.

Himatangi Beach is a popular summer spot and one of the closest beaches to Palmerston North.

It is technically a road, but only four-wheel-drive vehicles can handle the sand.

Neal said this didn't stop countless beach-goers from trying their luck, then needing to be towed out.

Compounding the problem was people parking alongside the creek, narrowing the beach entry.

“It forces people into one lane, it also forces people walking onto the beach onto that one lane. So many families walk to the beach, it’s scary, I nearly hit three or four kids myself.”

A line of cars on the sand is a regular sight at Himatangi Beach in summer. (File image)
Grant Matthew/StuffA line of cars on the sand is a regular sight at Himatangi Beach in summer. (File image)

The car park easily overflowed during the summer, but he said it was no excuse for people to block the only entrance or exit.

“If something happened at the beach, emergency services could not get through.

“I ended up using my own car and petrol to tow people, it took a lot out of my car... I do this for free and I’m happy to, but it’s inconsiderate.”

Neal later “begged and borrowed” until he had enough road cones to line the side of the creek to deter would-be parkers, with some success.

He said Manawatū District Council had previously been asked by residents to instal bollards as a permanent solution, but they were told there was no budget for it.

The council’s communications officer Ben Caldwell​ said they were unaware of requests for bollards.

The crowds at the Himatangi Beach Big Dig in 2015.
Warwick Smith/StuffThe crowds at the Himatangi Beach Big Dig in 2015.

The council was responsible for maintaining the road up until the end of the sealed surface by the surf club, and any more was done on request.

On request, council has cleared the beach entrance in time for the Big Dig this Saturday.

Cars on beaches is a source of contention at many New Zealand beaches.

A Foxton Beach lifeguard previously told Stuff how traffic distracted them from their job, while in Dunedin, the city council banned driving on beaches completely unless towing a boat.

WARWICK SMITH/STUFFFoxton Beach residents and a Foxton Beach warden talk about motor vehicles on the beach. (First published February, 2019)

Neal said he had seen cars driving right up to the flags, posing a danger to bathers and scaring children.

“I think it's important for the beach to continue being accessible to cars, it's one of the few you can drive on, locals use it to go fishing and walk their dogs. We’ve got to work together to keep it safe.”

The members of Himatangi Beach Community Patrol were all volunteers, and everything they had came from fundraising and grants.

Donations to the community patrol can be made to: 02 0727 0180700 04​.

Source : https://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/news/300499149/plea-for-tourists-to-stop-driving-onto-manawat-beach-after-42-cars-towed-in-one-day

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