A recent photo of campers sandwiched together less than a metre from a busy road on encroached road reserve at The Terrace Reserve Caravan Park in Brunswick Heads. Locals say a child only has to take two steps and be in the path of oncoming traffic.
Brunswick Heads residents say they’ll continue fighting to keep every square inch of the town’s Crown reserves accessible to the public, despite a recent decision aimed at the parks setting clear foreshore boundaries, including buffer zones for public access.
Byron Shire Council earlier this month approved licences for three of the state-controlled parks along the town’s foreshore to continue operating, but on condition they address longstanding and controversial issues of encroachments on public land, public safety concerns related to overcrowding and loss of amenity for adjacent locals.
While residents welcomed the move, some are still wary, including Terrace Residents Group spokesman Sean O’Meara, who says he won’t be happy till they remove more than 50 fixtures including power poles, taps and fire hydrants illegally put there over the past five years.
Mr O’Meara, whose family has lived metres from The Terrace Reserve Caravan Park for generations, said the intrusions on the river foreshore park blocked access to locals and visitors to the town.
‘We used to play cricket there as kids but there’re poles there now every ten metres,’ Mr O’Meara told Echonetdaily.
‘North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP) displays little concern for resident’s amenity or the safety of campers. In the pursuit of maximum profits campers are squashed in like sardines. The noise and impact on residents who live only 10 metres away is overwhelming with obvious safety issues that NCHPs ignores,’ he said.
Mr O’Meara said he was also concerned about the intensification of the caravan park’s use of the southern end of The Terrace Reserve affecting locals’ amenity.
‘This section of the reserve up until five years ago was only ever used for “primitive overflow camping” (non-powered tent sites) for around five weeks of the year at Christmas and Easter.
‘Since NCHP took control of this reserve, they have increased the usage to all year round and destroyed much of the native vegetation to increase camping areas and clear the way for large caravans and boat trailers.
‘Now, up to 350 campers are dangerously packed into an area smaller than a football field with huge amenity issues for nearby neighbours who live only 10 metres from tents.
‘NCHP claims safety issues in other parks as reasons to stop public access yet in The Terrace Reserve turn a blind eye to many life-threatening safety issues as their only interest appears to be how much money can be made by packing in as many people as possible.
‘A review of operations at The Terrace Reserve needs to be done before somebody is killed and the sensitive foreshore and mangrove environment is destroyed forever.’
Mr O’Meara said NCHP also had recently allowed campers to permanently store boats and kayaks on the only remaining river access left to local residents.
‘This has totally monopolised this beach for the use of tourists with no room left for children to play or residents to relax. Five years ago this beach was hidden from above by thick vegetation. Campers have cleared all this vegetation and cut branches off trees to expose the beach for their views and to keep an eye on their boats.’
In a recent plea to councillors, Mr O’Meara said, ‘It is now obvious that this is more a short-term plan with fast land grabs and compulsory acquisitions, planned short periods of private control and then a final sale by the state of billions of dollars’ [worth] of our best foreshore public land, land that has been owned and used by all for generations.
‘This is exactly what happened last week only an hour up the coast in Queensland when Premier Campbell Newman announced many government-owned caravan parks would be sold off to the highest bidder. This will also mean hundreds of vulnerable tenants being forced out of the homes they have lived in for more than 30 years – as will happen in NSW.’
Council’s conditional licence approval establishes the foreshore boundary on top of the riverbank to include a three-metre buffer zone for public access in the Massey Greene and Terrace caravan parks.
It also reclaims the foreshore at the Ferry Reserve Caravan park for public recreation, adding a big slice of road reserve land to create a bigger ‘Ferry’ park.
Council has also extended the public road reserve from 10 metres to 20 metres along The Terrace to allow for cycle/pedestrian pathways, additional carparking and a buffer zone between campers and adjoining residents.
Locals also welcomed retaining road reserve lands at the Massey Greene van park entrance, which is a busy river-access point.
Encroachment alongside the picturesque boat harbour by the Massey Greene park and part of the marina precinct was also excluded from the licence agreement and remains outside the operational area of the caravan park.