Auckland Council’s plan to install 300 bollards on Manly beachfront, to keep cars from damaging the berm, caused an outcry when it was made public by Hibiscus Matters.
The story has so far resulted in two opposing petitions, hundreds of social media comments, a standoff with contractors, politicians and residents, and a Council backflip.
The bollards were to prevent parking on The Esplanade, between Manly Sailing Club and Cross Street, where the berm is eroding badly. This part of the seafront is popular with beach goers, as it provides direct beach access.
Following complaints about the degradation of the berm caused by cars, Council staff discussed the issue with Hibiscus & Bays Local Board members back in March. One option considered then was using rocks to prevent parking. The work was seen as urgent.
The issue resurfaced at last month’s local board workshop (September 23), when Council staff told members that bollards were the chosen solution and would be installed by summer.
The local board was supportive and last week the digger arrived on site.
This was seen as routine work, despite the scale, and the removal of car parking. Therefore, Council did not seek community input. There were no expert reports, no plan for alternative parking. It didn’t go to a local board business meeting for a decision.
In fact, the bollards would already be in the ground if Hibiscus Matters had not been at that September workshop.
The story in our October 11 paper alerted the community and when contractors arrived to begin installing the bollards, on October 18, they were met with resistance. Threats along the lines of “put those bollards in and we’ll remove them” were reportedly made. Councillors Wayne Walker and John Watson turned up, along with local board chair Gary Brown. The contractors withdrew.
Cr Walker supports the protection of the dunes but describes Council’s process as “a disappointing lack of engagement”. He has worked with residents on a plan for replacement parks in the reserve, behind the sailing club.
“There is a clear need for more parking so everyone can enjoy the beach,” Cr Walker says. “It would have been better to use removable barriers to protect the worst affected areas as a trial, rather than make it as definitive as what’s proposed. A more comprehensive solution, including alternative parking, is needed.”
Mixed views on Esplanade
Views among the residents closest to the beachfront are mixed. Some are worried people will park on the grass directly in front of their homes instead.
One resident says they live on a public road and there is no issue with people visiting the beach in the daytime. At night, it can be a different story with anti-social behaviour, bottles and litter left behind.
They say the growing population has made the effects of driving and parking on the berm worse.
“In summer the berm is overloaded with heavy 4WDs and trailers leaving deep ruts. It’s just sand now, not much grass, and the tree roots are damaged,” one resident says. “The bollards won’t stop people going to the beach to picnic. They will stop cars from destroying the berm. It’s a shame to see Council cave in to protestors.”
Indeed, the community’s strong reaction caused Council to rethink.
Community Facilities general manager, Taryn Crewe, says based on the recent public reaction, Council has postponed the works to undertake consultation.
She says the project was initiated by feedback and requests from Councillors, local board members and the public. Meetings and site visits were held, including one at the end of February attended by coastal specialists, arborists and some residents.
“The coastal and arborist specialists are supportive of the protection measures proposed,” Crewe says. “The key consideration is to minimise vehicle movements, which can destabilise the coastal edge, inducing landward erosion.”
Crewe points out that, should the project go ahead, there will still be parking on the beach side of The Esplanade, in areas that cause the least harm to dunes and trees. The berm on the southern side of the Esplanade will also remain as is.
“If bollards go in, Council will monitor parking over summer so that any issues can be addressed, including disability access.”
The local board, which is responsible for parks and reserves, is now looking for a compromise. Chair Gary Brown says the aim is to preserve the dunes, trees and grassed reserve so visitors can continue to enjoy sitting and having picnics there.
“If we continue allowing vehicles to park here, the area will turn to sand as has happened down the eastern end of The Esplanade,” Brown says. “We must find a balance between the environmental aspects and recreational use.”
He says that the consultation process will ensure people have all the facts, can raise their concerns and advise how they would like the reserve protected.
Details of the Have your Say Manly berm consultation process will be posted on the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board Facebook page and the Auckland Council website. No timeline for that is available as Hibiscus Matters goes to press.
A tale of two petitions
• Rob de Lacey put up the Save Our Manly Beach Parking & Access Petition on October 17. He says his chief concern is overflow parking putting pressure on nearby streets and causing safety issues. He was also angry there had been no public consultation. The petition has more than 2900 signatures. • Matakatia resident Philip Adamson, who visits Manly Beach often with his family, started an alternative petition, Stop Manly Beach from being a Carpark, on October 19. “I wanted some balance and to show there are people who want to preserve our beaches and think about what our kids might have in 20 years’ time,” he says. “People say they’ve parked there for years, but the population increase and bigger, heavier vehicles are having a huge impact.” This petition has just over 100 signatures. Both petitions are at www.change.org