Sutherland Shire Council is bracing for big crowds at its beaches, parks, waterways and leisure centres over the weekend and into Australia Day, and is warning beaches and car parks will close if they get too busy.
With many workers taking Monday off to give themselves an extra long weekend as Australia Day falls on a Tuesday this year, and a heatwave predicted, the council has put extra traffic control measures in place, particularly around beaches and bays.
The council said that with more residents expected to spend Australia Day "enjoying our stunning open spaces this year", it was set to put a "range of temporary traffic management measures in place to ensure equitable access for those areas likely to be greatest in demand".
It comes after large crowds flocked to Cronulla in recent weeks, causing traffic chaos on all roads in and out of Cronulla.
One visitor to Cronulla two Sundays ago said traffic was queued back several kilometres on the Kingsway, while other routes into the area, including Burraneer Bay Road, were also gridlocked.
Long-time residents said while increased traffic was common, especially on Sundays when the weather was good, there had been particularly long delays in recent weeks.
The council took to its Facebook page yesterday to urge residents and visitors to expect delays.
"It's going to be hot this weekend and our coast (and pools) will be busy," it said.
"If you're heading to a beach, boat ramp, or harbour, plan your visit carefully and expect delays.
"Updates will be shared on roadside message boards and on council's social media."
It said that as per NSW Health advice, "if you're heading out and it is apparent that you cannot maintain physical distancing, it is strongly recommended you reconsider your plans".
The council urged beachgoers to avoid crowds, plan your visit out of peak hours, follow directions of lifeguards and police.
"Be aware that beaches and car parks will close when they reach capacity," the council said.
A council spokesman said today: "With the current warm to hot weather forecast for the weekend and Monday leading up to Australia Day, visitors to the coast and bays should expect significant delays at many locations and need to follow updates provided via message boards along the approaches to Cronulla and Kurnell".
Sutherland Shire mayor Steve Simpson said that with the forced scale-back of a number of large, popular community celebrations due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic this year, extra measures were being put in place to ensure local residents could still enjoy the both the lead-up to Australia Day and the day itself in popular outdoor areas.
"We all know that Australia Day is an incredibly significant day for our country and community and that many local residents will be looking to gather with family and friends this year to spend the day enjoying our beautiful parks, waterways, beaches and other open spaces," he said.
"With demand expected to be greater than in previous years, Sutherland Shire Council will be using strategically placed signage and social media messaging to minimise the added strain on roads and parking facilities surrounding the areas we know will draw visitors."
The council said short-term parking for picks-up and drop-offs will be provided for the weekend in Bundeena at Horderns Lane, Liverpool Street, Brighton Street and Beachcomber Avenue to manage an expected influx of visitors to the popular coastal community.
In addition to these measures, the council has been working with the operator at Boat Harbour four-wheel-drive park to reduce traffic queueing and to minimise the disruption to Kurnell residents as they traverse Captain Cook Drive, it said.
"We would urge all those who are looking to spend Australia Day enjoying our wonderful outdoor spaces to ensure that their celebrations remain COVID-Safe, observe social distancing and follow all traffic control and parking measures put in place," councillor Simpson said.
"We are expecting some of our most popular parks, beaches, waterways and boating facilities to be in high demand with congestion likely on roads and car parks surrounding these areas.
"Please observe the signage in place and follow direction from council staff and those on site assisting with traffic control measures, ensure that you are parked legally and show patience with other motorists out on our roads.
"We also ask motorists to be considerate of the residents in the neighbourhoods where they are parking and recognise the residents still need to access their properties."
Councillor Simpson commended the behaviour shown by beachgoers so far this summer and said he hoped crowds would continue to display "the same level of commitment to adhering to COVID-Safe measures over the Australia Day public holiday".
"So far this summer we have seen visitors to our beaches have readily observed social-distancing restrictions and shown and generally been very co-operative with our lifeguards in enforcing COVID-Safe measures," he said.
"I look forward to seeing this level of co-operation continue over the Australia Day break to ensure that all members of our community can continue to enjoy access to our much-loved beaches in a safe and responsible way."