DISGUSTED: Bernhard Nichol from Ballina Slipway was appalled by brazen looters who showed up to crawl over the 54ft cruising yacht he had been given the job of salvaging at Broadwater in December.
DISGUSTED: Bernhard Nichol from Ballina Slipway was appalled by brazen looters who showed up to crawl over the 54ft cruising yacht he had been given the job of salvaging at Broadwater in December. Jamie Brown

OPINION: are our beaches the last bastion of lawlessness?

FOUR-WHEEL driving hoons, shark finners and opportunistic scavengers stripping a half-million dollar yacht of its precious equipment.

These are some of the characters whose actions would at the very least be considered socially un-acceptable anywhere else, if not punishable by law.

But it seems, for some at least, anything goes on our open beaches.

Their effect on us might be like the world of a Mad Max movie or Lord of the Flies - the smells and sounds of the sand, the waves, the wind, and no-one else around to catch you being naughty.

Beaches are also popular places for people to bathe and sunbake in the nude, and there are at least two of those kind of beaches on the North Coast.

But should these treasured natural places be celebrated as a "last frontier" of personal freedom, or should they be better regulated?

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After all, most of us remember some kind of larking about when we were young - behaviour which might be considered off-limits these days in the age of personal injury litigation.

Then again, not everything that happens on the beach could be described as childish horseplay.

Last December when the prized 54ft cruising yacht Red Sky was abandoned in rough seas and eventually washed up on Broadwater Beach, unknown local looters took to the wreck with gusto.

At the time, Bernhard Nichol from Ballina Slipway, who had to salvage the vessel, dubbed the actions "a real indictment on some people in the local community".

Mr Nichol even recalled surprising two would-be loot-ers when he entered the yacht's cabins to inspect its diesel tanks.

Criminal behaviour on and around our beaches doesn't stop there.

Finless sharks have also washed up on our beaches multiple times, apparently after being butchered off shore by rogue fishermen.

Beyond these incidents, however, perhaps the worst impact of heightened public use of our beaches is the environmental one.

Irresponsible dog owners and four-wheel drivers scaring off the threatened pied oyster catcher and the over-harvesting of pipi molluscs, causing the local population to drop off a cliff, are just two examples of the mounting human impact on fragile coastal zones.

Perhaps if people want to keep public access to these precious coastal places it might be time to grow up and leave childish, dangerous behaviour in the past.



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