THE BEACH WAY OF LIFE

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS | OPINION -

As a par­ent of three teenage chil­dren grow­ing up in Wonga Beach, I am com­pelled to ex­press an al­ter­na­tive per­spec­tive to the crit­i­cism and com­plaint colour­ing re­cent me­dia ar­ti­cles re­gard­ing the shared use of the north­ern end of Wonga Beach.

Our daily qual­ity of life is en­joy­ing the beach in a mul­ti­tude of ways.

A few years ago, we were reg­u­larly tub­ing, pad­dle-boarding and swim­ming in the shal­lows out the front of Wonga Beach, while the kids put­tered around fish­ing and tow­ing each other on the tube in an in­flat­able boat. Not so many years later, our use and en­joy­ment of the coastal beach is re­stricted to land-based pur­suits. The ge­og­ra­phy and set­tle­ment of Wonga Beach lends it­self per­fectly to this shared use and ac­tiv­ity.

The beach is long, rel­a­tively re­mote, with large and wide tidal flats and la­goons par­tic­u­larly at low tide, a beau­ti­ful vista north to the river mouth and east to Snap­per Is­land, with a num­ber of pub­lic and pri­vate ac­cess points pro­vid­ing a valued re­source for recre­ational pur­suits in­clud­ing fish­ing, crab­bing, prawn­ing, rid­ing horses, mo­tor­bikes and quads, ex­plor­ing, walk­ing dogs, jog­ging, hav­ing a beach fire, build­ing cub­bies, and now, spy­ing on un­sus­pect­ing vis­i­tors and neigh­bours with hid­den cameras.

While, to some ex­tent, mo­tor­bikes may rep­re­sent an ex­pres­sion of youth free­dom, I don’t think this is re­ally the is­sue. Mo­tor­bikes and quads are sim­ply the most evo­lu­tion­ar­ily ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive and en­joy­able tool kids and adults use to get to this lo­ca­tion, and to en­joy its free­doms, in the same way as horses and bam­boo rafts once were.

The in­evitable ac­tions of a few clowns, com­bined with the fear-mon­ger­ing of lo­cal vig­i­lantes, sees the is­sue of shared use of the beach arise every now and again. A cou­ple of years ago, a wellchaired li­ai­son meet­ing with the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties ver­i­fied com­mu­nity un­der­stand­ing of the lo­cal laws for shared use of Wonga Beach. As a re­sult of the meet­ing, adults and chil­dren con­tinue to use and en­joy the beach as per their re­freshed un­der­stand­ing of what they are per­mit­ted to do un­der the rel­e­vant lo­cal law.

Nat­u­rally, as our chil­dren grew older and more ma­ture, we per­mit­ted them the free­dom to ex­tend their rid­ing ac­tiv­i­ties from cir­cles in the back­yard to vis­it­ing lo­cal pri­vate prop­er­ties where they have the own­ers’ per­mis­sion, and, over time, to the north­ern end of the beach. The mu­tual un­der­stand­ing of their priv­i­lege to use the area is that they show re­spect for both the landown­ers and their fel­low users.

If anything hap­pens on their ride at the beach, they needed to come home and re­port any in­ci­dents to us so that we have an ac­cu­rate idea of what’s ac­tu­ally go­ing on, and so that we can ad­dress any is­sues if required. We, and they, as grow­ing teenagers, as­sume any risks of per­mit­ting them to ride, it is no­body else’s con­cern or re­spon­si­bil­ity. I’m un­der no delu­sion they are not al­ways per­fect kids, but I be­lieve they are safe and re­spect­ful of fel­low users, wildlife and the en­vi­ron­ment, and I am also very happy for them to be en­joy­ing a unique qual­ity of life.

The kids have been told to slow down, to ride away from, and to wave to peo­ple on the beach in ac­knowl­edg­ment of each other, as they ride past, par­tic­u­larly in the vicin­ity of Pin­na­cle Vil­lage, tra­di­tion­ally a hot­bed of griev­ance.

With due re­spect to the vast ma­jor­ity of beach users, I have been as­tounded by the re­ported rude­ness of some adults to­wards the kids, de­spite the kids be­ing clearly friendly, ac­knowl­edg­ing and re­spect­ful.

Some adults have stuck their fin­gers up at the kids as they are wav­ing to them, yell at them, and now, feel very com­fort­able tak­ing pho­tos of them.

I’m afraid the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of en­cour­ag­ing wit­nesses to take pho­tos of the kids is wors­en­ing this di­vide.

The kids wouldn’t dream of do­ing the same thing, and frankly are di­rected to pro­tect them­selves from such be­hav­iour.

A child rid­ing along the beach try­ing to be po­lite is not dis­re­spect­ful nor of­fen­sive. This type of adult con­duct is. As eye wit­ness to one of these re­ported in­ci­dents of in­tim­i­dat­ing be­hav­iour, I was shocked to closely ob­serve the be­hav­iour of BOTH adults in­volved, and this has cer­tainly not been re­ported in pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles.

I can only hope this ex­pla­na­tion may help some Wonga Beach com­mu­nity

Pic­ture: SHANE NI­CHOLS

Beau­ti­ful Wonga Beach, south­ern end

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