Byron Shire Council has backed off prosecuting a homeless man for illegally camping at a Brunswick Heads reserve.
The man was defending the charge of failing to comply with a no camping sign erected by Council, which had issued him with a fine for camping in the reserve near the tennis courts.
At a recent Mullumbimby Local Court hearing into the case, the man had questioned the legality of the charge.
Council’s governance manager Ralph James said in a statement this week that Council had decided to withdraw the fine and case as the person was homeless and the offence was not committed for gain.
Mr James said the man had ‘since moved on and therefore it was considered not in the general community interest to continue with the proceedings’.
Mr James said at the time that rangers had provided street campers and people camping in the reserve information on where they could camp, accommodation options and community services available to homeless people.
Mr James said Council rangers would continue to patrol Brunswick Heads for street camping, following complaints by locals.
Former Byron councillor Tom Tabart, a longtime advocate for the homeless, had criticised the man’s charging saying it was ‘very much against the spirit’ of Council’s homeless policy and ‘undertaken without recourse to the elected councillors’.
At the time, Mr Tabart said, ‘one can only speculate over their motivation’ but that a homeless spokesperson had told him the secretive North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP), which runs the three public Crown reserve caravan parks at Brunswick Heads, had ‘big plans for the Crown lands where they live’.
Since taking over the caravan parks from Council seven years ago, NCHP has been accused of encroaching on Council land and road reserves and other breaches of its licences.
The income to Byron Shire from the three parks on Crown land is also dramatically less than when Council ran them, according to recent figures, yet NCHP claims through a PR agency that usage has increased.
But NCHP administrator Jim Bolger, a former Council employee, continually refuses to comment on issues related to the running of the parks.