Squatters told to move on
By Megan Kinninment
Byron Bay's colourful clan of squatters at the Sandhills Estate are to be evicted from their Crown-owned beachside abode by the end of April. But they won't be kicked out on to the street.
The homeless group of up to 40 people has been camping just metres from Clarks Beach in scrubland at Sandhills Estate for several years.
Yesterday, the NSW Department of Lands, which owns the site,
vowed to find alternative accommodation for the long-term homeless, with a list of options to be presented before the tarps and tents are pulled down.
The eviction decision follows a meeting last week between the department, local police, the Department of Housing, Arakwal Aboriginal Corporation, the Department of Community Services and Byron Shire Council representatives after complaints from nearby residents.
In a statement, the department said it would 'work with other agencies to develop options for the relocation of these unauthorised campers' although no housing options have yet been announced.
This week, long term squatters at the camp said they had not heard from any of the agencies involved with their relocation.
However, all of the residents The Northern Star spoke to said they would take up offers of housing if presented, rather than stay on in the bush, with no running water, electricity or toilets.
"I'm used to being moved on," said 48-yearold squatter, Lady Di.
"We get moved on by the police all the time.
If they gave us a house, I'd take it.
"I've been on the (Department of) housing list for two years already.
"I've been waiting for a two-bedroom unit in Brunswick Heads.
But, it never came."
Another Sandhills camp- er, 17-year-old Steve, said he too had been on the Department of Housing's emergency housing list for eight months.
His girlfriend, 19-year-old Yalala, who has been homeless since she was 15 and living in a tent at Sandhills for over two years, has been unable to get placed on the Depart- ment of Housing's waiting list.
"I haven't been able to put my name down on the housing list because you have to have ID and I've only got a bank card, not my birth certificate," she said.
"And, you have to have four letters, references from houses you've lived at before.
"I don't have that."
Another long-term Sandhill resident, William Forrester, said the move by the department to help the homeless was overdue.
"They need to find us something," he said.
"There's no cheap housing in Byron Bay.
"It's all over-priced and caters for the tourists. We need more public housing in Byron Bay.
"The ones who have been living here for years, they need homes.
"It's rough out here."
William James Forrester contemplates the effect a forced removal would have on the community living in the estate.