A petition claiming the 177 per cent fee increase to access Stockton beach as “unfair and unreasonable” has attracted more than 8000 signatures in its first three days.
Anna Bay’s Warren Leadbeatter, a Stockton regular for more than 20 years and one of a group of beach users to start up the petition, said the dunes should be available for everyone to enjoy.
“The decision by the owners [Worimi Conservation Lands] to almost triple the permit increase has angered many beach-goers. We believe it to be both unfair because there was no warning or consultation with the public and unreasonable due to the size of the increase,” Mr Leadbeatter said.
The Examiner reported last week that annual beach permits would skyrocket from $30 to $88 and three-day passes from $10 to $33 as of January 1, 2019.
WCL board of management spokesperson Andrew Smith said at the time it was the first increase in more than a decade and fees would help to manage increasing costs, including staffing, visitor management and to protect Worimi cultural sites.
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The Examiner had not received responses to another series of question at the time of publication.
Raymond Terrace’s Gary Charlton, who has been driving the dunes for 45 years primarily for fishing, described the price hike as “nothing short of outrageous”.
“I would not have minded so much if it was a modest annual increase, but to raise the cost of permits from $30 to $88 virtually overnight is ridiculous. I feel it is my right to be able to access any part of Australia without seeing my fees wasted,” he said.
The petition claims: “For more than 100 years people have been accessing the sand dunes free of charge, including the fishing huts, and users enjoying the range of activities. Why now after all this time do fees need to be implemented?”
Mr Leadbeatter said the reality was that the vast majority of locals – four wheel drivers, motorcyclists, campers, recreational fishers, swimmers, surfers, dog walkers, horse riders – do the right thing by looking after the dunes and cleaning up.
“They want us to enjoy the outdoors but at what cost? These increases are sure to impact on tourism and I have no doubt businesses in Anna Bay will see a decline,” he said.