Street camping trouble in paradise

Backpackers Sophie Bruhn and Gesa Boesch have been sleeping in their station wagon in Byron Bay saying they can’t afford to pay camping fees.
Backpackers Sophie Bruhn and Gesa Boesch have been sleeping in their station wagon in Byron Bay saying they can’t afford to pay camping fees. Kate O’Neill

BACKPACKER vans parked illegally overnight are continuing to cause headaches for Byron Bay locals, who are fed up with the noise, mess and lack of respect some campers are showing for the town.

Vans and station wagons line up on beachfront carparks, the CBD and in residential streets, where backpackers believe there is less chance of detection by rangers.

James Edney, who lives near the Butler St reserve, says on a ‘big night’, there can be up to 10 vans parked in his street.

“I don’t mind the concept of street camping if someone slept in their car, left in the morning and I didn’t know about it, it would be okay. But if you’re illegally camping in someone’s front yard, having a party, urinating in the garden and leaving your rubbish behind, then it’s not alright.”

Tensions boiled over on Boxing Day at Wategos Beach when local surfers, angered by the mess, decided to bundle a group of backpackers’ camping gear, eskies and wet clothes into a skip. A shouting match followed and police were called.

Byron Shire Council general manager Graeme Faulkner said council’s powers were limited in relation to street camping

“In December 2009, council wrote to the Department of Local Government asking for the (Local Government) Act to be amended to give council greater ability to prevent camping in the shire’s streets and car parks. The Department rejected council’s request for a change to the law in March 2010. In the absence of necessary legislative change, council is doing all it can.”

This has included issuing more than 330 camping-related fines since Christmas. There is an $86 fine for camping in a no parking zone and a $200 fine for littering.

German backpackers Sophie Bruhn and Gesa Boesch, who have been sleeping in their station wagon in a Byron Bay street for the past three nights, say they are ‘respectful’ street campers, who use their car only to sleep in, then leave early in the morning. They are not deterred by the threat of a fine. “We don’t have to pay it, they can’t find you in Germany,” Sophie said



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