Long Beach residents Barry Smith and Len Hannah spoke passionately about the issue during the public forum of the board’s online meeting on March 31.
The pair told West Harbour Community Board members the Long Beach Domain had been a popular destination for locals, visitors, companies and car clubs, who enjoyed parking on the grass for car boot picnics.
Since signs had gone up and a barrier of boulders had been placed to prevent vehicle access in December 2019, use of the domain had dropped sharply, Mr Smith said.
At New Year and in subsequent weeks, Mr Smith and Mr Hannah had conducted an informal survey/petition to gauge reactions to their call for the removal of the boulders and signage, and a return of vehicle access.
The petition had gained 70 positive responses from visitors and 80 from Long Beach residents, with four against, Mr Hannah said.
"What annoys us is that the domain was open to vehicles for 95 years and there were very little problems with it," Mr Smith said.
Vehicles had been prevented from accessing the domain grass in 2019, after lobbying from a very small group of residents, the men said.
They also expressed their opposition to the Dunedin City Council spending $20,000 to upgrade the Long Beach Domain car park, saying it was not necessary.
In response to questions from the board, the men said the public use of the domain had dropped 99% since the installation of the boulders.
Board member Trevor Johnson expressed his frustration with the situation and highlighted that there had been changes up and down the coast to prevent cars from accessing the beach.
Board chairwoman Francisca Griffin said this was the Reserves and Beaches Bylaw, which aimed to discourage people from driving on the city’s beaches.
Later in the meeting, during the governance support officer’s report, discussion of the Long Beach Domain arose again.
The report stated that council staff had met with a resident to discuss car parking at Long Beach and were presented with a petition calling for removal of the restrictions to vehicle access on to the domain.
Dunedin City Council parks and recreation planner Stephen Hogg joined the meeting to answer questions on the situation, and to provide background on the Reserves and Beaches Bylaw (2017).
There was "some sentiment" from local residents to allow vehicle access, which would be difficult to provide without designating the whole domain a vehicle access way, Mr Hogg said.
Mr Johnson was keen to express his frustration with the situation, describing the boulder installation and car park plans as "ridiculous", and the council response as "using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut".
"As soon as chains and signs go up there, they are ripped down - it is a waste of money," he said.
Board council representative Steve Walker called a point of order, saying the time with Mr Hogg was supposed to be for questions.
Board member Duncan Eddy asked Mr Hogg if he was aware the boulders did not prevent some people from accessing the grass anyway, by driving over shrubs.
Mr Hogg responded that some access points to the grass had been left unimpeded, and that groups such as car clubs wishing to park on the domain could request access through normal council channels.
Mr Eddy then asked, if the council canvassed local opinion and it was overwhelmingly against the blocking of vehicle access to the domain, "will they be listened to?".
Mr Hogg said a solution would have to make sense, and the council could not go against its own bylaw.
Cr Walker summed up by asking: "Is it incumbent on us to come up with some sort of solution that gives the best outcome for the desires of the group [local residents], but doesn’t impinge on the bylaw?"
Mr Hogg agreed this was reasonable, saying management plans would also have to be considered.