Campers living a free lifestyle
BEDDING down for the night in a campervan in Byron Bay’s streets is so easy, you’d be silly to pay for a campsite.
That’s the view of Brisbane traveller Josh Wilson and many others like him, who, despite a council crackdown announced earlier this year, continue to street camp in the town and surrounding residential areas such as Suffolk Park.
Mr Wilson, a regular traveller to Byron Bay, said he camped for free about 70 to 80 per cent of the time.
“Sometimes I’ll pay for a campsite if there’s one close by, but I’m not paying when I don’t have to,” Mr Wilson said.
The most popular areas with campers include the Butler Street Reserve, the recreation grounds at Tennyson Street and all across Suffolk Park, where Mr Wilson admits it’s easy to hide away from the council rangers.
This week, with the peak tourist season in full swing, the Byron Shire Council has erected electronic billboards at the entrances to town warning that street camping will not be tolerated and that fines apply.
But according to locals, things are as bad as ever.
“They’re worse then scrub turkeys, they just keep breeding,” complains real estate agent Neil Cameron, who lives at Suffolk Park.
Suffolk Park locals like Mr Cameron have been tearing their hair out over the problem for years.
They complain about a loss of amenity, noise, rubbish left behind and people defecating next to their vehicles
Mr Cameron said local authorities did not appear to have the resources to deal with the year-round problem.
“I noticed someone getting booked at Broken Head this morning, but that’s the first time I’ve ever seen (a ranger) there,” he said.
Mr Cameron said the problems were mostly caused by international backpackers.
Byron Shire Council has found it difficult to deal with street camping in areas such as Suffolk Park, partly because of a lack of resources and partly because their powers are limited.
Rangers can ask people to move on, but fines are a grey area, especially if campers are in spots without ‘no parking’ signs.
The council’s crackdown, announced in May, promised a consistent enforcement effort by rangers, more frequent liaison with campervan rental companies and greater encouragement of the use of highway rest areas.
Council also recently voted to investigate the appointment of an extra part-time ranger at Suffolk Park to help deal with street camping.