The electronic signs erected at the approaches of Byron over Easter proclaimed that ‘fines apply’ for street-camping, ie sleeping in your car. This is untrue.
Council received clear legal advice a couple of years ago (unusually it was even published in the agenda) that there is nothing illegal about street-camping. It went on to say that all Council could do was continue its practice of erecting signs saying ‘No parking 1am to 5am’.
Significantly the advice did not offer an opinion as to whether using parking laws to achieve an unrelated purpose was itself enforceable.
I suspect that anyone given a ticket for parking during those hours could get it overturned as an abuse of process; parking laws are designed to prevent hogging of spaces and I don’t think there’d be much competition for space during the wee hours.
On this occasion I have to take the elected councillors to task rather than the staff. The latter made their position clear late last year when they recommended that street-camping be deleted from the 2012 Compliance Priorities Program on the basis that you can’t make people ‘comply’ with something that isn’t law. The councillors pressed on regardless.
I distinctly recall Jan Barham early last year making an argument to the effect that street-campers don’t make a contribution to the local economy. This harkens back to the vagrancy laws, when you could get jailed just for having no money. It was a very unfortunate thing for a Greens representative to say and I can only conjecture that Jan felt some need to nullify the local business community, which has been relentless in putting shit on her.
I also recall her insisting that fines had been issued, which simply cannot be correct.
Street-campers may offend our sense of territory but the streets are not private property; they belong to everyone. I suspect that the state government has failed to act against street-camping because it has legal advice that prohibition would not be upheld by the courts, on the basis of common law rights.
If street-campers litter or make excessive noise there are existing laws to deal with that. The Bible says, ‘If thine eye offends thee, pluck the fucking thing out’.
Fast Buck$, Coorabel