Stern warning over illegal beach driving

ECOLOGICALLY SENSITIVE: The ban on driving on beaches was first implemented in January 2002 as part of a campaign to protect the ecology of the South African coastline Picture: SUPPLIED
ECOLOGICALLY SENSITIVE: The ban on driving on beaches was first implemented in January 2002 as part of a campaign to protect the ecology of the South African coastline Picture: SUPPLIED
Nearly two decades after banning the driving of vehicles on beaches, the Department of Environment continues to battle with the problem, despite huge penalties having been imposed.

According to an advertisement in yesterday’s Dispatch, driving on beaches is only for permit holders. The rap for offenders can be a fine of up to R500000, jail for up to two years or even both.

The ban was first implemented in January 2002 as part of a campaign to protect the ecology of the South African coastline, and with few exceptions, only scientific researchers and tourism business operators can access the coastline by vehicle, strictly by use of a permit.

Green scorpion Div de Villiers told the Daily Dispatch yesterday that although there had been a recovery in the flora and fauna, beach driving was still a serious problem throughout the province.

“The main reason for instituting the controls was the impact that vehicles were having on the environment, specifically on threatened bird species such as oyster catchers,” De Villiers said.

“The populations of oyster catchers have recovered since the ban. Other animals, such as ghost crabs and plough snails, were being crushed by off-road vehicles.”

But it was not only animals being harmed – vehicles were also damaging the plants that stabilise sand dunes, and they were impacting on sensitive wetlands and estuaries.

De Villiers said his department, the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) had been enforcing the legislation since its promulgation.

“Several hundred fines have been issued over the years and, although the penalties are potentially very high, admission of guilt fines are usually R2500, unless there are other contraventions coupled with the unlawful driving, like resistance to officers performing their duties.”

De Villiers said they dealt with all applications for permits. This included applications for scientific research, physically disabled beach-users, fishing competitions, filming, accessing private property, and tourist operations.

To report driving on beaches readers can call 086-111-2468. — mbalit@dispatch.co.za

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