Beach car parks closed across the Port Macquarie-Hastings, but you can still exercise, swim, surf

The beach access at North Haven is closed. Photo: Sue Head.
The beach access at North Haven is closed. Photo: Sue Head.

Access to beach car parks across the Port Macquarie-Hastings will be banned from midnight on Thursday, April 9.

The move is part of a strategy to stop people congregating on or around the area's beaches while maintaining access for continued specific use.

Residents can still swim or surf at local beaches, walk along the breakwalls across the local government area or Coastal Walk or exercise during the Easter and school holiday period.

Roads leading to beach car parks will be barricaded with regular police patrols to ensure social distancing and gatherings don't exceed the current laws.

Superintendent Paul Fehon

Superintendent Paul Fehon from Mid North Coast Local Area Command says the move was necessary in the climate of COVID-19.

"The vast number of calls for (police) service have been coming from concerning residents in regards to the beach areas and the gathering of people in those locations," Supt Fehon said on Wednesday, April 8.

"That is why, during the Easter weekend and the school holidays, it is necessary that we do have greater vigilance out there to ensure people are following the guidelines that are set out.

"Police will be increasing their vigilance across the Mid-North Coast particularly in the beach areas regarding self isolation and people leaving home for non-essential reasons.

"We have already seen a number of people flaunting these laws.

"It is important that people follow the rules with regards to the legislation and isolate.

"There has been sufficient warning out there. People will be getting fined if they deliberately breach these legislative requirements," he said.

The message is clear - do not loiter in public areas over the Easter break. The Town Beach skate park remains off limits.

The message is clear - do not loiter in public areas over the Easter break. The Town Beach skate park remains off limits.

Council mayor Peta Pinson said the decision to close all car parks to beaches was an unprecedented decision.

"We have done this for the safety of our community and under the Public Health Act," she said.

"We will be working closely with police to ensure people are only using the beach for specific reasons, such as exercise, a swim or a surf.

"But if you have the intention of coming to the beach for sunbaking or gathering, the police will be out in force and you could be fined."

Families are permitted to exercise as a group, she said.

Cr Pinson described COVID-19 as a "very serious virus".

Mayor Peta Pinson

"We are known as a COVID-19 hotspot," she said.

She defended council's decision to close access to the beach car parks.

"Closing the beach car parks is one way of ensuring that we keep our community as safe as possible during these holidays," she said.

"Walking and exercising are good for your mental health, particularly along our well known and beautiful coastline."

Council general manager Craig Swift-McNair said keeping the coastal walk, breakwalls and beaches open was a positive thing to do.

"There has been a lot of robust discussion in the last 24 hours around keeping these areas open," he said.

"My view is that whilst the federal and state governments are allowing recreational fishing and allowing us to recreate, why would we close the beaches.

Bans in place: Council's beach car parks will be closed but beaches, the breakwall and coastal walk will remain open during the Easter and school holidays.

Bans in place: Council's beach car parks will be closed but beaches, the breakwall and coastal walk will remain open during the Easter and school holidays.

"You can quite happily enjoy a walk on the beach with your family or partner.

"What we are trying to do with the car park closure is firstly to make you work for it but visually you get a very clear message that I shouldn't be gathering and playing cricket with my 10 mates," he said.

"That is really what the car park closure is all about.

"Having a walk along the breakwall or a wander on a beach is such a big part of our local government area," he said.

"We just feel, at this point, that it was not necessary to close the beaches."

Mr Swift-McNair confirmed that the road access to Shelly Beach would be closed.

The river baths at North Haven will remain open for use.

Ferry services will be restricted to residents, essential deliveries and services only.

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Playgrounds and exercise stations remain closed across the LGA.

Playgrounds and exercise stations remain closed across the LGA.

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