Byron Council wants law change

BYRON Shire Council has asked the NSW Government for changes to the law regulating street camping.

Byron Shire Council wrote to Local Government Minister Don Page yesterday, asking for an amendment to the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW) to allow Council to regulate street camping.

The council says the legislation blocks it from banning street camping, because the council cannot regulate the use of vehicles in a road or road-related area.

"Tourism in the Byron Shire needs to be managed appropriately and in a way that is sustainable," Byron Shire Council Governance Manager Ralph James said.

"We welcome visitors to the Byron Shire, and we want people to enjoy their time here, but at the same time we have to protect the community's amenity, as well those aspects of the region that make Byron Bay worth visiting to begin with.

"In a local radio news interview yesterday, Minister Page indicated the State Government would be willing to consider closing the gap that currently exists in its legislation, which prevents local governments from regulating the use of motor vehicles in a road or road related area."

Mr James said the State Government had already responded to requests from Sydney City Council to amend the relevant section of the Act.

Mr James said amendments to the Act passed last year to help Sydney City Council stop the road side sale of vehicles fit with Byron Shire Council's wish to stop street campers.

Mr James said the council had also advised the State Government it was keen to talk to it about the enforcement of any future legislative change.

"Generally the profile of campers in Byron Shire includes younger travellers, often backpackers. The vehicles involved range from specifically designed campervans to sedans," he said.

Often, those vehicles were rented by overseas backpackers, which meant any fines issued had to track to the offender via the rental company, by which time the campers had finished their holiday and returned to their home country.

Mr James said the council wanted the hire companies to take responsibility if their clients broke street camping laws.

"Council requests consideration of a mechanism which would see liability for street camping infringements rest with the registered owner of offending vehicles, thus leaving recovery, if the vehicle was not under the management of the registered owner, to the registered owner by commercial or civil means," Mr James said.

"We are seeking these changes for the benefit of the residents who live here, as well as the visitors that do the right thing, and so we are hopeful the State Government will respond to our attempts to better manage tourism in the Byron Shire."

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