A TOP Gear stunt planned for Ninety Mile Beach in New Zealand has prompted Northland officials to apologise to Maori for lack of consultation.
Producers of the hit BBC motoring show will next week film a car speeding at up to 150km/h on the beach for an episode to be screened around the world.
A Far North District Council spokesman said the BBC was given special permission for the beach - also known as Te Oneroa-a-Tohe - to be closed for short periods from March 11 to 17 to film the high-speed drive and other items for future episodes.
The beach is classed as a public road, with a 100km/h speed limit. The filming would be of a car doing up to 150km/h and a "chase car" shooting the action.
It's not known whether any of the Top Gear stars - James May, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond or The Stig - would be driving the vehicle, or what type of car it would be.
The council had to grant permission for the closure without going through its normal process - advertising and two weeks for public submissions - because the request came in 14 days before the days wanted. It said the exposure for the Far North would be huge.
Five Far North iwi - Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Ngati Kuri, and Ngati Kahu - have custodianship of the beach, but the council approached only Ngati Kuri for permission to grant the road closure outside the normal process.
Under a pending Far North Treaty of Waitangi settlement, the beach will be governed by a board comprising Crown, iwi, conservation and council representatives charged with protecting and improving conservation values while retaining public access and recreation. It will be chaired initially by Te Rarawa leader Haami Piripi.
Mr Piripi was outraged to read of the closure in a public notice in the Northland Age newspaper.
The notice said the closure would be from noon to 5pm each day, with all access points to the beach closed between West Coast Rd, Ahipara, to Te Paki Stream - a distance of about 50km.
Mr Piripi said that would seriously affect iwi members who used the beach for food gathering, recreation and spiritual purposes.
He chided the council for not consulting all iwi responsible.
The row comes as a representative of Jeremy Clarkson declared the star will never be returning to Australia, after what was supposed to be a private dinner at Sydney's exclusive Otto restaurant descended into a paparazzi frenzy.
News Ltd reports that Clarkson and Top Gear co-host James May, both in Australia to promote a motoring festival and shoot for Top Gear in Sydney, were left seething after being accosted by photographers soon after arriving for their dinner at 8.30pm, leading Clarkson to declare one photographer "should be thrown into the river".
One of the entourage told a group of nearby paparazzi: "You're the reason we won't come back to Australia".
But today Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman poured cold water on the story.
"I would like to address the matter of the comment made by a man in Sydney Harbour, stating that Top Gear would never be coming back to Australia," Wilman told News Ltd.
"That comment was made by a halfwit who has absolutely nothing to do with the TV show, and nor is he a spokesman for Jeremy or any of the other presenters.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.