Steel gate access a fire concern to neighbouring residents

FIRE FEAR: Shoal Bay's Stephen Ritchie and neighbours say the gate which leads to Box Beach is not being locked at night as specified by National Parks.
FIRE FEAR: Shoal Bay's Stephen Ritchie and neighbours say the gate which leads to Box Beach is not being locked at night as specified by National Parks.

Residents living adjacent to bushland at Shoal Bay are fearful that hooligans accessing a roadway through a gate which is controlled by National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) could, in view of the current bushfire crisis engulfing the state, cause a major catastrophe.

Ocean Beach Road resident Stephen Ritchie, who resides just a short walking distance to the road access, said that "there may be wider implications" unless the gate is locked and secured at night.

Mr Ritchie said that the steel gate was controlled by NPWS.

A National Parks spokesperson told the Examiner that gates were locked each night.

"Every effort is made to close the gate at the time displayed on the sign. The NPWS sign at Box Beach will be assessed for maintenance. Illegal, antisocial and dangerous behaviour will not be tolerated in national parks and should immediately be reported to the NSW Police."

Mr Ritchie said the wording on the sign was unreadable and also needed replacing.

"After being woken two mornings in a row at 2am by hoons doing wheelies within the park, I approached the NPWS office in Nelson Bay on the morning of December 30 to have the gate shut between the hours of 10pm and 5am as the sign by the gate indicates," he said.

SIGN: Residents say the sign needs replacing as the wording is almost unreadable.

SIGN: Residents say the sign needs replacing as the wording is almost unreadable.

"The officer told me that they pay a security firm to close the gate and we agreed that I would check the gate that night and call them the next day. After several attempts to reach them I left a message which was ignored.

"I believe the gate was left open until January 3 so I contacted them again and was assured that the security firm would be contacted and they would ring me back in two hours. This was not done.

"This is not what residents want to hear when the area has a history of problem fires and there is a huge amount of fuel that has accumulated along the roadside and into the park."

Neighbour Sue Ware said that she had also written to the NPWS in relation to the gate.

"The gate is meant to be closed every evening at 10 and reopened at 5am, this has not been done on a regular basis for some time," she said.

"Because of all the bushfires the entire country is experiencing, I feel that this is an issue worthy of [the NPWS] response. The RFS was called out to Box Beach [on a recent] evening, I spoke with them myself as they were driving back out. Gratefully on that occasion it was a hoax call, but as we know from past experience it will not always be so."

The Ritchies say the area was subject to some petty vandalism from drunken parties, but the threat of a bushfire, whether by accident or not, was a major concern.

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