Pedestrian access but not vehicle access has been reinstated at Rules Beach.
Pedestrian access but not vehicle access has been reinstated at Rules Beach. Contributed

Petition adds pressure as residents push for beach access

UPDATE: More than 500 signatures from the small community of Rules Beach will be added to an e-petition, putting pressure on a resolution for vehicle access to Rules Beach.

Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett said the issue was emotional but needed to have some mature discussion.

"I do believe we need to work clearly, before the next holiday season, when the tourism sectors will be impacted," he said.

Residents have said the vehicle access is as an easy fix, but Mr Bennett said the issue was now more complex.

"Now we have to be thinking about it more strategically," he said.

"Do we manage turtle nesting and dune degradation? We have to be thinking for the long term sustainability of the area.

"Legislation does change. Legislation isn't retrospective. What was good 20 years ago isn't necessarily good now."

On Tuesday, the Gladstone Regional Council moved to not proceed with vehicle access at this time due to the lack of public reserve available.

"It's not a simple solution, that is the unfortunately frustrating situation," Mr Bennett said.

Earlier: Rules Beach users are furious at further delays to beach access by vehicle, as councillors voted unanimously to not proceed with clearing.

Pedestrian access to the beach was fixed last month after heavy rains on Australia Day eroded the beach.

Local resident Tony Bridges believes the council's delay has an environmental ulterior motive.

"They don't want it," he said.

"They're so green they're bent in the brain."

Mr Bridges said the pedestrian access was different to what residents wanted and vehicle access should have been built simultaneously.

The council's reasons for not going ahead include a loss of foreshore, which is further complicated by private property north of Rules Rd under "old title" which sets property lines onto the beach.

This leaves just 350m of accessible public beach area south of the road.

A further issue is the estimated 2m drop to the beach.

"We're going to keep the existing road reserve closed to vehicle traffic," councillor Col Chapman said.

"We're going to investigate the track (Mitchell Ck Rd) about 3km further north.

"I understand the community is looking for a fast, quick solution but bear in mind, there is legislation we have to abide by - coastal management protection of the beach and protection of the sand dunes."

The closure is having an impact on local tourism and business.

Bundaberg commercial mullet fisherman John Steemson said his fishing season began next week.

"I have been fishing there for about 20 years," he said. 

"All of a sudden we don't have vehicle access."

The Gladstone Regional Council's environment portfolio spokesperson Councillor Col Chapman said the road reserve at Rules Beach is currently below the high tide mark, meaning any vehicle turning north from Rules Beach Road would be entering private property.

"The owner of this land is understandably reluctant to permit vehicles to access his property on which a commercial agricultural operation is situated," Cr Chapman said.

"Queensland coast foreshore and dune systems are governed by State Government legislation and all infrastructure or tidal works activities are subject to its approval."

Cr Chapman said the council's parks and environment department had been approached by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to consider the opening of vehicle access to Deepwater National Park within an existing road reserve.

"Council is investigating the possibility of access to Deepwater National Park being established within a road reserve on the south and east boundary of 350 Fingerfield Road but this will be subject to adequate budget provisions."

He said the council had been quick to restore pedestrian access to Rules Beach following an inspection of the area by councillors and the council's senior parks and environment directorate staff on May 7.

"Council gave its assurance at that meeting that access would be reinstated as soon as possible and within a fortnight that was achieved with the walkway now installed at the same location as the previous structure which had been lost due to the effects of erosion," Cr Chapman said.

"A post and rail directional fence was also erected to protect the sand dune from uncontrolled pedestrian activity in an attempt to prevent further erosion, but access has unfortunately been gained with dune vegetation and the embankment suffering damage."

The council also approved a recommendation that the surrender of land to the coastal protection zone be noted when  property to the immediate north of Rules Beach Road and fronting Fingerfield Road is sold in the future.

Click here to view the council's map of the area.