The National Parks and Wildlife Service has hit back at suggestions that a popular NSW Hunter beach has been closed to four-wheel-drive enthusiasts.
It follows a rally on Saturday, attended by an estimated 5000 drivers who demanded greater access to the dunes.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service has banned camping on Stockton beach since June, after storms stripped millions of tonnes of sand from the dunes.
The weekend's protest event, organised by 4WD identity John Rooth and 4x4 Action Magazine, attracted vehicles from as far away as Queensland.
VIDEO: Organiser "Roothy" addresses supporters after the event.
Regional National Parks and Wildlife Service manager Robert Quirk said yesterday that all 28 kilometres of the beachfront were open to 4WD owners, plus an additional 430 hectares in the high dunes.
He said the only off-limits space was the camping area, which had been closed since last year’s mid-winter storms.
‘‘They caused major flooding over and behind the frontal dune, damaging and exposing Aboriginal sites, killing beach vegetation and damaging large areas of dunes where visitors camp’’ he said.
President of 4WD NSW-ACT Craig Thomas said his association did not support Saturday’s rally.
‘‘We do not believe additional access at this time is in the best interests of the sustainable long-term use of Stockton beach for all user groups,’’ Mr Thomas said.
‘‘The beach and associated dune area suffered severe damage and will need time to restore itself; if it is not given, it will be lost to all forever.’’
Mr Thomas said he had tried to broker a meeting between the wildlife service and the rally organisers, without success.
Protesters formed a 48-kilometre convoy between Stockton and Cessnock, where they were forced to disband for safety reasons.
Neither Mr Rooth nor 4x4 Action Magazine could be contacted for comment yesterday.
However, speaking in a post-rally video, Mr Rooth said he had anticipated between 1000 and 2000 vehicles would attend the rally.
‘‘It was the world’s biggest vehicular convoy protest ever,’’ he said.
‘‘Let’s hope the people that this was directed against were listening. We want our country back. We don’t want to be locked out of it. Today was a massive example of that.’’