New Zealand — The combination of high fire danger and torching of stolen vehicles at Wanganuis South Beach alarms local farmers and foresters.
And motorbikes screaming around also bother them.
There were two cars torched at the beach recently, including one last Monday night. Sergeant Kevin Smith said that car was old, beat-up and from Hamilton. Police were looking into the fire and the owner was going to take some sort of action.
The coast between South Beach and Scotts Ferry is a permit-only fire area, Rangitikei rural fire officer Pat McCarthy said. Even bonfires on the beach are banned.
The coastal strip behind the beach has 1600ha of commercial pine forest. A spark that blew inland on the prevailing westerly wind could start a fire that would cost millions.
Then the person responsible could be liable for the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would cost to put it out.
Mr McCarthy said there had been no cars torched inside the forest for the last two years since it had been fenced. Before that there was one about every fortnight, but luckily they were all spotted before they could spread.
Motorcyclists riding in the forest were the main fire danger now if their machines created sparks or ignited after an accident. The bikes mainly got into the forest by riding down the coast from South Beach.
Its a constant problem, mainly on weekends and holidays. There can be up to 20 or 30 at a time.
The forest was randomly patrolled about three times a week and riders were issued with trespass notices if they were caught.
When we catch them. Its pretty hard to catch motorbikes. Walkers were permitted in the forest, but were warned not to venture into areas being logged on working days.
Anyone seeing smoke in the forest should ring 111, Mr McCarthy said.
Fire risk was high at the moment, but not as bad as in 2003, which was the driest in 50 years.
A farmer from the area said fires along the beach were a continual worry, because they could spread from the coastal strip onto his land. He did not want to be named, because he said in the past people had retaliated by damaging his property.
Cars were still being dismantled and sometimes burned on Pauri and Wiritoa Lake roads.
I presume theyre stolen cars and they take out anything thats of value to them. Sometimes its the whole motor that goes, all the tyres go and then they break the windows and bash the whole thing up.
The police usually get told about them, but theres nothing much they can do at that stage. Usually the number plates are gone.
Motorbikes screaming around and tearing the place up were a problem for him too but fires were the biggest worry. Thats just a fearful situation. We are frightened to go away in the summertime.