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Byron Shire
April 16, 2021

A call for designated vanpacking areas

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Vanpacker Duncan Campbell. Photo supplied.

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’, 

Unfairly maligned

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.’

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  1. I’m 100% behind embracing vanlifers and allowing more parking spots where you won’t be fined for parking overnight. Especially near our beaches as this is the whole point of vanlifing. However, an area set aside for multiple night parking with showers and other facilities is called a caravan park and you should pay (a small amount) to use them just like everyone else who camps or travels around with a caravan. What makes you so special?

    • I agree with Andrew… Caravan Parks are there for a reason and I’m pretty sure they allow vans. If they’re all full then go somewhere else and come back when it’s quieter. The Byron infrastructure just can’t handle too many people at one time and illegal camping adds an overflow to the overflow… if we continue this Byron will be not worth visiting.

  2. I sympathise with Mr Campbell’s concerns regarding difficulties in accomodation with his camper van.
    With approx 15 suitable van parks in Byron Shire can I suggest when they are full, a fool proof strategy which has always worked for my partner and I on our travels with our tent, simply move on.
    His suggestion that the contributions of millions of tourists a year contribute to the economy of the shire does not change the fact that it is the small base of rate payers which continue to be the almost sole source of revenue for the council to maintain infrastructure to keep pace with tourism and development.therefore we need a bed tax and paid parking In Brunswick Heads and Bangalow.
    Just to be of further assistance, there are many van parks inTweed and Ballina shires so chill out and move on if need be and enjoy your holiday.

  3. I agree pay to stay. We all regardless of income don’t like paying fees but they are a part of life. I am sure everyone would like to live next door to a beach but it is not possible. Byron’s nature is under stress and it is not cool to see sinks draining into car parks every morning.
    It is not 10 percent doing the wrong thing but many more.

  4. Another group which needs to be similarly accommodated are the car sleeping homeless. All that is required is some security and some toilet and washing facilities. It is in the interests of everybody to see that these basic needs are met. Especially the provision of toilets.

    • I agree. The Cavanbah Sport’s Centre for example is empty most nights and Council pays to light it. There is space, parking bays and infrastructure.
      I have always thought if there was a way of verifying people that were genuinely homeless they could be given access to shower, laundry, facilities so they were safe at night and have a ess to facilities that can be managed. The importance of verifying people is so that we are not supporting services for back packers choosing not to pay. There would need to be some rules as there are for people that have homes ie noise, pets etc.
      Thus would ensure people can park up safely anf know they can sleep undisturbed.
      This is not a long term solution to homeless but it would ensure there was an option for people that are genuinely homeless. There is a kitchen there that could operate for a Community dinner.
      There are people genuinely homeless but also genuinely just wanting to park up and not pay and stay in the best spots.
      We are almost encouraging this free living in the way we market Byron and it is not sustainable with the numbers of people through social media that now know about the area. I also feel we need a major educational marketing campaign that is embedded in our tourism. Yesterday I saw some young people with a open gas stove cooking next to a brush fence in a carpark spot. The fence has caught fire before and is next to a Reserve. They could not see the danger of their actions and totally ignored all signage.

    • I agree with the DR. as the homeless are in dire need of accomodation. Maybe the old Byron hospital would be good. It has been standing there doing nothing but getting vandalised for too long of a time!

      But I wouldn’t class “vanpackers” need to be similarly accommodated. They can pay to be accommodated in one of the many caravan parks in our shire! And they can be more respectful of our beautiful environment which most are intent to destroy!


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