Fires, bad conduct spark call to close beach at night

Oki St, Oreti Beach residents (from left) Joyce Kolk, Gavin Booth and Johan Groters stand next to...
Oki St, Oreti Beach residents (from left) Joyce Kolk, Gavin Booth and Johan Groters stand next to the remains of a car burnt in a fire last Friday. PHOTO: TONI MCDONALD
Residents are calling for Invercargill’s Oreti Beach to be closed to the public at night after a spate of fires and antisocial behaviour.

Southland Oreti Beach Advocacy Group spokesman Gavin Booth said last Friday’s car fire in the sand dunes was just one of many antisocial incidents that happened at the beach on a daily basis.

Residents were increasingly beginning to feel unsafe and the group was calling for a beach ranger to be reinstated, a stronger police presence, more visible signage and gates at the two entrances as well as for the beach to be closed to the public at night, he said.

"Out-of-control behaviour at the sand dunes has become the norm.

"You have families playing cricket at the beach and there are cars going through the match at 80km[h] and no-one says anything.

"There is nowhere else you can go 80km[h] near a family playing and get away with it."

He was threatened twice in December for challenging people over their bad behaviour, Mr Booth said.

One of those times, a person smashed his truck window.

Oki St resident Joyce Kolk said that she had been afraid her house might catch fire last week. Her little cottage was built by her father, who had died, and his remains were there, she said.

It would have been awful to lose them because of a car fire.

A lot of elderly people were living in the area and it was heartbreaking for her to see them worrying about losing everything they owned, she said.

She regularly picked up rubbish on the beach and was picking up drug paraphernalia, including hypodermic needles, on a daily basis, Ms Kolk said.

Three representatives from the group spoke to Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark in November and said it seemed the council had a willingness to reinstate a ranger.

The group made a formal submission to the council on January 31 voicing its concerns.