Heavy concrete barricades have been moved in a blatant breach of a temporary ban on vehicles at Muriwai Beach to protect wildlife, beachgoers and a fragile dune system.

Five two-tonne concrete blocks were shunted to the side of Wilson Road beyond the access gate earlier this month. The access gate had also been opened.

Auckland Council regional parks principal specialist Stephen Bell said tyre tracks indicate a vehicle, or vehicles, bypassed the barriers to access the beach.

Locals have secured the accessway at Wilson Road with a new padlock, however Bell added the “disregard for safety” shown by whoever opened the gate is a “major concern”.

“Police are aware of the trespass, which contravenes a vehicle restriction in place at Muriwai Beach from December 29, 2023 until today, January 15 2024.”

This temporary measure, which is set to reoccur for the next three years, aims to protect people, wildlife, a fragile dune system and the adjacent Woodhill Forest area during a high-risk peak summer period, according to Auckland Council.

Any breach of the vehicle restriction, or dangerous driving on the beach, should be reported immediately to police on *555, noting the time and location of this activity, as well as any details to help identify a driver and vehicle, Bell added.

January is often the busiest month at Muriwai Beach and the regional park when families and holidaymakers gravitate in their hundreds towards the setting sun and surf.

With the vehicle restrictions now lifted, council park rangers were urging anyone planning to drive on the beach to slow down when passing people, birdlife or animals, and remember to always give way.

Ngā Maunga Whakahii o Kaipara Ngahere chief executive Malcolm Paterson represents the hapū landowner of Woodhill Forest. The Ngahere team works closely with rangers on protecting the adjacent beach and to manage illegal activity which puts the forest and broader environment at risk.

He acknowledged the kororā, or little penguin, fledging chicks would soon leave safe nesting homes in the dunes to head out to sea.

“What should be a simple task for these birds that are declining in number, to waddle across the beach, becomes a major challenge when there are vehicles to dodge and tyre tracks to navigate,” he says.

Only two West Coast beaches in the Auckland region currently permit responsible four-wheel driving – Muriwai and Karioitahi — provided drivers first obtained a permit from the council, and have a registered and warranted vehicle.

However, the impact of this activity on both beaches has prompted recognition that new measures must be considered to ensure further protection and safety. One future initiative at Muriwai Beach may be the installation of a control point, which will only allow permitted vehicles to access the beach.

The council recently introduced permit cancellations to deter unsafe driving and staff are assessing the feasibility of infringement fines for drivers or the registered vehicle owner of any vehicles breaching the rules.