Homeless or backpackers? Illegal camping in Byron
HOW many rangers does it take to move on illegal campers? Depends on who asks, apparently.
Mullumbimby resident "Missy Moo" said on social media that she rang Byron Shire Council on Tuesday, asking them to move on illegal campers who had blocked the entrance to her local creek for ten days and was told the job required two rangers "for safety reasons" whereas council only had one.
Five, four... one?
"The person at the rangers office told me that there is only one ranger for the entire shire now.
"Apparently it has been that way for quite some time," wrote Missy Moo.
The information conflicted with information on the Byron Shire Council web site on Wednesday:
"There are currently five rangers employed by Byron Shire Council.
"They provide 24 hours coverage to the whole of Byron Shire, 365 days per year."
On Thursday, council confirmed there were "four community enforcement officers who assist with compliance and street camping".
"Outside of normal operating hours, that is early am and late pm, they are required to work in pairs for safety reason," said the statement.
Byron Shire Council Manager of Sustainable Development Wayne Bertram said: "in trying to cover extended hours, seven days a week and allow for days off, there can be the odd day when only one compliance enforcement office is available".
"I wonder if the council planning on updating their website anytime[sic] soon with accurate information?" asked Missy Moo.
"I feel there is definitely a lack of transparency with the situation surrounding the rangers office."
Not all rangers are the same
Council's website also stated that "rangers have a wide range of duties" but Missy Moo found the duties were somewhat limited.
"The [spokes]person was very hesitant to give details but indicated that the shire had allocated other rangers to parking ticket duties only," she wrote.
A council spokeswoman told The Northern Star there were four parking enforcement officers and one animal enforcement officer who worked throughout the shire in addition to the four community enforcement officers.
'No Camping' signs "too expensive"
Byron Shire Council was campaigning for rate rises and a spokesperson indicated to Missy Moo that the current budget could not accommodate "no camping" signs at the creek.
"I asked about some signage for the area and was told it's too expensive and comes out of the ranger's budget" wrote Missy Moo.
A council spokeswoman confirmed "no street camping" signage has been erected at the town entry to alert incoming visitors not to camp in the streets and reserves" but did not comment on budget.
No room at the inn
Missy Moo said the campers were backpacker tourists from overseas; had they been homeless locals, she may have been sympathetic.
"I'm pretty annoyed that our horses and dogs now can't get in the creek to cool off during our morning walk.
"We literally cannot get past the two cars, tent, clothesline and rubbish.
"My kids like to eat their breakfast on the rocks at the creek in the morning before school but that's stopped too.
"There is also an issue with the creek being used as a toilet."
On Thursday Mr Bertram said council did not yet "know if they are itinerant campers who can be moved on, or if they are genuine homeless people who require support.
"With the Mullum Music Festival coming up and the limited amount of accommodation in town, illegal street camping can become an issue.
"Extra patrols have been scheduled over the weekend to help support town amenities,"
By Friday, Council had an update: "enforcement officers have been out on site at Mullumbimby Creek and confirmed that the people are homeless".
"Staff are working with them and housing providers to hopefully find alternative accommodation."
The Northern Star has contacted Missy Moo for further comment.