Upcoming changes to recreation in Belfast Coastal Reserve

Friday 24 January, 2020

Park Rangers commence education campaign 

Parks Victoria Rangers are encouraging people to be aware of upcoming changes to where recreation activities can take place in Belfast Coastal Reserve.

The changes follow the release of the Belfast Coastal Reserve Management Plan which establishes two zones in the reserve to ensure recreation is balanced with the protection of environmental and cultural values.

Once updated regulations for the reserves are finalised early this year, visitors will need to know where recreation activities can and cannot take place. Key changes include the requirement for dogs to be on a lead and for recreational horse riders to be at the water’s edge when on the beach. Dogs and horses will not be permitted within a Conservation Zone.

To raise awareness of the forthcoming changes, Parks Victoria Rangers are commencing an education campaign for park visitors, neighbouring residents, community organisations and groups that regularly use the reserve. Temporary signage will also be installed at entry points to the reserve. 

The Belfast Coastal Reserve is home to important wildlife, a place of significance for Traditional Owners, and an important community asset offering a range of recreation opportunities. Native animals, plants and birds can be found in the reserve’s wetlands, beaches, dunes and waters, with the beaches being a nationally important breeding spot for the threatened Hooded Plover.

The reserve is of great cultural significance to Eastern Maar and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners. Cultural heritage exists across the landscape in the form of coastal middens, stone artefacts, the names of local places and sites given by ancestors, and through many more features of Country. 

To protect these values while maintaining opportunities for recreation, community consultation was undertaken during 2018 to produce a management plan for the reserve. After extensive community consultation that received more than 400 written submissions, 400 online surveys and 250 quick poll surveys, the Belfast Coastal Reserve Management Plan was produced.

Information and a map outlining the upcoming changes, which also address camping, fires, hunting, driving and riding in the dunes, is available on the Belfast Coastal Reserve page of the Parks Victoria website.

The updated regulations for the reserve are expected to be finalised during the first half of the year, while a review of the management plan is expected to begin in mid-2021. 

Quotes attributable to Michael Smith, Area Chief Ranger– Parks Victoria:

“Belfast Coastal Reserve is a much-loved place that will benefit from a balanced approach to managing recreation and protection of natural and cultural values.”

“With more people on the reserve during the warmer months, we’ll be busy helping visitors and locals understand the changes and learn what’s so special about the reserve.”

“We’ve recently hired two new Park Rangers who will be out-and-about sharing this information, and making sure everybody enjoys their visit while respecting the environment.”


Key upcoming changes for dog walkers and recreational horse riders

Dog walking

Recreational horse riding

  • Dogs must be on-lead and under control at all times.
  • Dogs are permitted on beaches but not within 5m of the base of dunes. 
  • Dogs are not permitted within signposted Hooded Plover nesting sites. 
  • Off the beach, dog walkers must keep to designated beach access tracks and car parks. 
  • Dog walkers must pick up and remove their dog’s faeces from the reserve.
  • Dogs must not be allowed to rush at, chase or attack wildlife.
  • Recreational horse riding is permitted on the beach at the water’s edge, and on designated beach access tracks and car parks.
  • Horse riding is not permitted between sunset and sunrise. 
  • On the beach, horses must be ridden as close to the water’s edge as is safely possible. 
  • Horses are not permitted within 5m of the dunes. Horses must not be ridden where this distance can’t be maintained, such as during the highest tides.
  • Horses are not permitted in dunes. The dunes are prone to rapid erosion and contain important Aboriginal cultural heritage sites which would be damaged by horse hooves.
  • Horses must not gallop at any time. Horses must slow to walking pace on all access tracks and when within 20m of other beach users. 
  • Horses must give right of way to all pedestrians.
  • Washing down horses in carparks or other areas is not permitted and faeces must be removed.

On 31 July 2018, the Belfast Coastal Reserve Management Plan was released to strike a balance between protecting the environmental values of the reserve, while maintaining opportunities for recreation.
The plan includes the establishment of two zones within the reserve to balance protection of environmental and cultural assets.

Key features of the 15-year management plan include:
• a ‘Conservation Zone’ prohibiting horse riding and dog-walking
• a ‘Conservation and Recreation Zone’ allowing on-leash dog walking and recreational horse riding
• restriction of commercial horse training to a small area at Levy’s Beach and Hoon Hill
• priority management strategies to protect and monitor populations of beach-nesting birds
• foreshore access throughout the entire reserve for walking dogs on-leash and recreational horse riding.

View the management plan >

Media enquiries

Josh Maher

(03) 8427 3144 Mobile: 0448 373 986


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