You can no longer just roll up and pitch a tent at Pourere - and time is running out if you want to secure a spot for this summer.
Friday is the deadline to have applications for camping at the beach in to the Central Hawke's Bay District Council, and they're expecting a last-minute influx.
It's the first year campers have had to register in advance, a decision made by the Pourere Beach Committee.
This group was formed to keep beach campers (previously called freedom campers) under control. Worried about damage to the sand dunes, and that locals could miss out on camping spots, the committee made pre-registration essential between December 20 and February 6.
Local hapu and ratepayers will have priority over non-locals, but the maximum stay is seven days, meaning more people will have access to the (approximately) 50 campsites available.
Bruce Kitto, the emergency management and bylaws officer for the Central Hawke's Bay District Council, said it was the numbers of people, not camping space, that was at issue. Kairakau beach had room for five or six groups only, and Porangahau was just further away, said Mr Kitto. But he expected both beaches to have more visitors in response to the restrictions at Pourere.
Four portable toilets, extra signs and rubbish collection would be provided at Pourere, and tracks on the sand dunes would be closed over summer.
Committee chairman James Aitken said the aim of the committee was to work out a way that the beach could be used sustainably by everyone - and he's talking long term. "Unless something was done my children wouldn't have the privilege of taking their children to Pourere. We're quite serious about making this a generational thing."
Last year's Christmas season had seen record numbers of campers at Pourere, but it had been mostly non-locals who had turned up, "created three shades of merry hell and went home again".
Mr Aitken had seen one group, wanting a flat campsite, use lawnmowers to cut the marram grass on the dunes. "That's just fundamentally dumb."
People were also digging "not very deep holes" in the dunes to use as toilets, and burying disposable nappies in the sand or stuffing them in recycling bins. "That is unacceptable behaviour anywhere, but it's certainly unacceptable on our beach."
Mr Aitken has a simple message for people wanting to camp at Pourere this summer: "Be a bit sensible about it - camp down there in February and March. The weather's better then anyway."
An Otane man was getting in ahead of the crowds - he'd set up camp among some wind-blown bushes on the roadside. He'd been camping in that spot for the past few years, and had been coming to Pourere all his life.
The appeal of the beach was obvious.
"Waking up every day to paradise. Looking at a million-dollar view every day."
He filled his days fishing and "figuring out what life's all about."
He thought 90 percent of campers were there for the same reason, and it was down to locals to control the 10 percent of campers that didn't respect the beach.
"Police don't have the time or the resources to be here all the time."
Parents also needed to educate their kids to use common sense on the beach, especially after a youth was killed while "surfing" on a car.
In the few weeks he'd been camping at Pourere, the camper said, he'd noticed the plants on the sand dunes making a comeback.
- Applications should be sent to the CHBDC, PO Box 127, Waipawa by 4pm on December 10. Provide a full name and address, a phone number and the dates you want to camp. Specify whether you'll be bringing a tent or caravan, and how many people will be in your group.
The committee will meet on December 13 to allocate sites, and will be in touch with applicants soon after.