Cape Town - Regulations controlling the use of 4x4s on South Africa's beaches have been changed, allowing people who are physically disabled to apply for a permit to take their off-road vehicles onto the sand.
The new regulations, published on Friday, will also allow people taking part in organised fishing competitions, as well as film crews, to obtain permits to drive onto beaches around the country.
Speaking at an event in Cape Town to mark the launch of the amended regulations, Environmental Affairs Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said his department had noted some problems with the original regulations, which came into effect almost three years ago.
"One of the most pressing has been the severe limitation on access to our beaches by people with disabilities," he said.
Friday's event - held on a Sea Point beach - coincides with the International Day of Disabled Persons.
According to the new regulations, permits will be issued - by the department, at a cost to the applicant of R150 - to disabled persons whose "functional mobility prevents him or her from being able to walk on beach surfaces".
Applicants are also required to obtain written proof of their disability from the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities.
Van Schalkwyk said others who could apply for a permit for access to South Africa's beaches in 4x4s included, among others, "people taking part in organised angling competitions, people who want access to private property, and people who would like to do certain types of research".
The regulations also make provision for those "producing an advertising feature, still photograph or television programme".
"But... there will be no general lifting of this 4x4 ban and opening up our beaches again," Van Schalkwyk said.
He also warned of a "crackdown" on inland 4x4 routes.
"We already have almost 400 of these inland 4x4 tracks, and we need to start regulating them.
"I will... in the new year start a process to sit down with the relevant stakeholders in this industry.
"Because in some instances where these (routes) are managed responsibly, the results are there for everybody to see.
"But I must say in some of our river beds and sensitive mountain areas there really are problems. There will be a crackdown on where that is happening," he said.
In a statement issued at the event, Van Schalkwyk also acknowledged there were "concerns about the alleged impact on tourism of the recreational 4x4 beach driving ban in some areas".
For this reason, a pilot socio-economic impact study was being carried out in KwaZulu-Natal.
This would "establish scientifically if there has been any lasting negative economic impact, and if so whether alternative forms of eco-tourism have off-set such negative impacts", he said.