By Senior Constable Mick Emery
Regular readers of this column would recall numerous police articles over the years in which we have lamented the ongoing issue of hoons on Teewah Beach. For years, local police have literally been called out at all hours of the night to respond to rollovers, drink drivers and dangerous driving incidents.
Despite regular police patrols, random breath testing, enforcement and even arrests, every weekend sees the trend continue: a steady stream of inconsiderate motorists from the big smoke, who rip up the beach seemingly hell-bent on having the beach closed to all of us.
I recall one particular callout, in relation to a hoon doing ‘doughnuts’ around a group of pedestrians playing touch footy on the beach – only to strike one of them with the tray of his ute, knocking the victim unconscious. The victim in that case now has permanent injuries, and will likely never be capable of a day’s work in his life.
When I interviewed the driver, I took the time to ask: “What do we as police have to do differently to stop people like you driving so recklessly?”
In a telling moment of honesty he admitted: “There’s nothing you can do – I’d literally just seen a police car…and yet I still drove like an idiot…”
His answer gives an insight into the attitude, and it suggests that ‘more police’ is not going to solve anything.
Meanwhile, the rangers are having to deal with the environmental degradation of this beautiful area – as many of those same motorists simply leave their rubbish and human waste for ‘someone else’ to clean up.
It begs the question: how much longer should we put up with it? At what stage do we make a hard decision in the interests of safety – and to the benefit of the natural environment – and close camping on Teewah Beach altogether?
At some point there has to be an analysis to work out the risk-benefit ratio: what are the risks of ongoing weekends full of hoons – versus the potential benefits of it remaining open? Are the benefits really worth it?
I am aware that many people (including some of you local readers) have taken the time to write to their local member of parliament about the issue, highlighting the ongoing risks – which are only exacerbated by the lack of mobile phone reception, and an inability for emergency services to traverse the beaches at high tide.
And yet still nothing changes. It has left Teewah Beach with a reputation as ‘the wild west’ – where good people are having their camping experience ruined by an increasing number of idiots. I concede that we cannot guarantee your safety down there…in many cases we can’t even get to you at all.
I know of long-time Teewah campers who will no longer visit there, essentially out of fear. For years, I’ve heard people ask the question: ‘Does someone have to die before we take this issue seriously?’
And now – sadly – that is exactly what has just happened.
In the middle of the night in late August, an 18-year-old man was killed during yet another moment of beach driving stupidity, when he was thrown from the vehicle he was travelling in, and then crushed as it rolled on top of him.
Is this the one? Is this finally the incident that will lead to things changing on Teewah Beach? What should that change look like?
It’s your National Park, so why not have a say via your local member?
I know I won’t be popular for this article in some sectors, but – let’s be honest – Teewah Beach camping is a problem.
Of course there are good folk down there who never cause an issue – and they will be adversely affected by their irresponsible counterparts. But we no longer have the luxury of asking, ‘Does someone have to die before we take this issue seriously?
The dreadful and urgent question we now face is: ‘How many more have to…?’