IT’S a lawless playground for hoons, vandals and grubs.
But after years of criminal behaviour, authorities are pushing to get the upper hand and stop the rot in the Redhead to Belmont dunes.
It’s a battle that never seems to end.
On one side are rogue four-wheel drivers and quad bikers and on the other are beach lovers and environmentalists.
But this long-time struggle over the future of Nine Mile Beach could be coming to a head, if authorities and various land managers can find their way through red tape, reach agreement and turn plans into action.
The plan involves employing a full-time ranger to patrol the dunes, along with help from police.
As previously reported, a permit system is planned to control four-wheel drives and other vehicles and restrict reckless and criminal behaviour.
Careless driving, torched vehicles and dumped asbestos and other rubbish had been a big problem in the area for years.
The dunes are part of Belmont Wetlands State Park, but they stretch beyond the park – along land owned by Belmont Golf Club, Hunter Water and Lake Macquarie City Council.
Park trust chairman Greg Wright said: ‘‘It’s been an open sore for a long time and we’ve got to heal it.’’
Mr Wright said this healing could only be done with the co-operation of the various land managers and the community.
‘‘We’re not excluding people from the beach or from having fun, but we want it to be family-friendly and sensible fun that’s not harmful to others,’’ he said.
‘‘Until this situation is resolved, people will be at risk.’’
The region’s four-wheel drive clubs have previously backed the plan and expressed concern at a minority of hoons and offenders who trash the area.
Mr Wright said the trust and the council had jointly funded a co-ordinator to progress plans for the permit system and ranger.
He said the aim was to achieve ‘‘lasting and effective change’’.
Leaving things as they were was unviable, as it allowed criminal elements to prosper, hesaid.
‘‘Those who are misbehaving and driving without a permit and licence or using illegal vehicles willbe turned away and fined,’’ hesaid.
The permit system was being planned, but change was happening.
‘‘We have created some barriers to stop irresponsible access to the park,’’ he said.
‘‘We are trying to direct legitimate users through one route to the beach.’’
Police had recently asked the trust and golf club for land access for patrolling and training.
Police have an all-terrain vehicle, four-wheel drives and motorbikes to conduct patrols.
Golf club general manager Greg Pearce said he was happy for police to patrol the area as much as possible.
Mr Wright said the trust was ‘‘developing a good relationship with the police’’.
The trust welcomed police training and surveillance in the area, along with ‘‘action against illegal and irresponsible behaviour’’.
Lake Macquarie Police Inspector Darryn Cox said: ‘‘It’s an area we will continue to focus on.’’