Residents denied facilities
NORTH Coast residents say they have been duded by the state government's takeover of council-run caravan parks.
In the past six years, North Coast council's have lost control of eight Crown land caravan parks; at Brunswick Heads, Byron Bay, Lennox Head, Ballina and Evans Head, and the same story is being played out along the entire NSW coast.
The government wants to upgrade the parks in response to what it says is consumer demand, replacing camp sites with more upmarket accommodation like cabins.
But there are fears that this will change the traditional role of parks as a cheap option for housing and holidays.
There is also an increasing concern about communities being 'locked out' of parks and losing access to their rivers, lakes and beaches.
President of the Ballina Environment Society, Dr Lyn Walker , says many of these coastal caravan parks were traditionally occupied only in peak periods.
"The rest of the time the community enjoyed the facilities, it was their park," she said.
"Now what's happening with the government taking over, is that they are excluding the community."
She said a fence had been erected around Lake Ainsworth Caravan Park shortly after the state government took control in 2010.
Locals had previously used the pathways through the park to walk to the lake, but were now kept out.
"There's still a gate where people can walk thought but they lock that as they please." she said.
At Brunswick Heads, there are plans to fence the Terrace Caravan Park, which has long been used as a walkway to access the town and river foreshore,
Ballina MP Don Page has described it as 'protection for paying guests'
Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham says comments such as these are insulting to the local community.
She has been a vocal opponent of what she calls the commercialisation of Crown land, as she says it is at odds with the principles of Crown land usage as set out in the Crown Lands Act.
MP Don Page says he does not see a problem with turning a profit from the parks.
The same people who say this are the first people who put their hand up for money from the state government, yet they deny them an opportunity to get some kind of a return on an asset that is owned by the whole of NSW.
The general manager of the Crown Lands division Graham Harding has previously stated the core objective is to have better operating caravan parks that will support local tourism industries.
He says the profits generated go back into maintaining and improving the parks and are also invested in the local Crown Reserves.
But Cr Barham, whose council was deprived of state contributions to surf lifesaving at Clarkes Beach after that park was handed back, said the government needed to prove that was what they were doing.
"They need to be genuine," she said.
A spokesperson for the Crown Lands Division said fencing at Crown land holiday parks is installed for the safety and security of guests and residents, as it is at council or privately owned and managed parks.
"It does not restrict foreshore access which is available along the foreshore of all parks except Terrace Reserve as this park adjoins Simpsons Creek, a marine sanctuary within the Cape Byron Marine Park," the spokesperson said.
"The fencing at Lake Ainsworth was installed by Ballina Shire Council as part of a new car park. Again, it was installed for the security and safety of the patrons and it does not restrict beach access."
LOCAL CARAVAN PARKS HANDED TO STATE GOVERNMENT CONTROL
The Terrace Caravan Park Brunswick Heads
Massey Greene Caravan Park, Brunswick Heads,
Ferry Reserve Caravan Park, Brunswick Heads
Clarkes Beach Holiday Park, Byron Bay
Lake Ainsworth Caravan Park, Lennox Head
Shaws Bay Caravan Park, Ballina
Ballina Central Caravan Park, Ballina.
Silver Sands Caravan Park, Evans Head.