Sand dune chaos risks lives, sparks debate on beach closure
CLOSING a popular stretch of Sunshine Coast beach to vehicles is off the table for council despite continued erosion concerns and "irresponsible" driving behaviour on sand dunes.
A witness who recorded the actions was "disgusted" by the behaviour of motorists at Noosa North Shore saying multiple cars became bogged risking the tides, drove across dunes and even caused an accident.
According to Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services, nearly 90,000 vehicle beach permits were distributed for the Cooloola Recreation Area in 2018, and more than 20,000 are already registered this year.
"It was a miracle nobody was injured," the witness said.
"There is absolutely no excuse for endangering people's lives."
The video sparked online discussion about the apparent lack of ranger presence at the area, and whether the beach should be open to vehicles at all.
A spokesperson from Department of Environment and Science (DES) said rangers patrolled the area seven days a week and worked with police to ensure beach-goers obeyed the rules.
Despite this, they said ranger numbers varied "depending on visitor numbers and competing priorities".
The Teewah-Cooloola Working Group, which includes representation from both the Gympie and Noosa council, met every six weeks to consider the vehicle and camping concerns brought to their attention.
Noosa Council mayor Tony Wellington said the group were also investigating car beach permits.
"The group has been looking closely at the current permit system for both campers and vehicles, with plans to make representation to the State Government on these matters," he said.
"The clear aim of the group is to find a workable solution that benefits the visitor experience, whilst minimising environmental harm."
More than 50,000 daily permits were registered in 2018, followed by weekly (31,923), monthly (4973) and annual passes (1258).
Day beach permits started at $12.95, while passes for more than one month were $259.50.
The DES spokesperson said all profits from the permits were "fully re-invested" back into the area management.
Cr Wellington said there had been "useful" discussions with Queensland Police Service and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services about the visitor "irresponsible" behaviour, but it was at police discretion to apprehend.
With Easter and school holidays fast approaching, the DES spokesperson said ranger presence would be ramped up.
"Every driver needs to check conditions before coming to Cooloola, and obey lawful directions from rangers and police," they said.
"It is important that all drivers use common sense when driving on beaches. Drivers should only drive on the beach at low tide and when conditions are suitable.
"Driving on the dunes can damage the dunes for many years, as well as risking the safety of drivers and passengers."