Vanpackers should be welcomed into the Shire and given designated parking areas, rather than being ostracised for the actions of a small minority, a veteran van man says.
Duncan Campbell says vanpackers have been unfairly tarred with the same brush following the grisly discovery of human faeces at an unofficial campsite in the centre of Byron Bay.
Some residents and business owners have accused the van travellers of ‘invading’ the car park next to Railway Park and say the campers are not only taking up local parking spots, but have turned the site into a ‘toilet’ and a ‘garbage dump’,
But Mr Campbell, who claims to be a vanpacking veteran of more than ten years, says the campers are being unfairly maligned.
‘It is a problem, yes, but not a problem that’s exclusive to vanpackers,’ Mr Campbell says. ‘You are just as likely to see someone who’s been out partying all night doing their business on the street as they’re stumbling home to their hotel.’
‘Basically, at this time of year you have ten per cent of people who visit the Shire who make a mess no matter what kind of accommodation they’re in.’
Mr Campbell believes that the vanpackers have been forced to camp in the railway carpark because there is nowhere else for them to go.
‘I don’t think most of them want to be there; it’s not a very nice area, but that’s what happens when you give people no other choice.’
He says instead of ‘directing hatred’ towards those camping in vans, the Shire should embrace them.
‘The first thing is to stop seeing them as the enemy and giving them fines or trying to force them out,’ he says.
Designated vanpacking sites
He also believes designated vanpacking areas should be set aside where vans can park legally for a number of nights and access basic amenities such as toilets and showers.
The cost of this would be more than offset by the contribution vanpackers make to the local economy.
‘It costs more money to travel around in a van than to just sit in a hostel or a caravan park,’ he says.
‘You eat out more, you buy more fresh food because you don’t have a refrigerator… you’re constantly contributing to the local economy.
‘And you need to work to get the money for all of that, so a lot of vanpackers end up making a further contribution by working in the local hospitality industry.’