Byron Shire Council says a recent spike in illegal camping in areas like Mullumbimby’s Heritage Park could be due to people being moved on from the Gold Coast ahead of the impending Commonwealth Games.
Describing it a ‘very complex and challenging issue’ the council’s Sustainable Environment and Economy Director Shannon Burt said there had been ‘an increase in illegal camping and the number of homeless people in the Byron Shire [recently] and this could be a result of people leaving the Gold Coast area which is preparing for the Commonwealth Games.’
She added the council ‘understands the frustrations that residents have with respect to illegal camping in the Byron Shire’.
‘Byron Shire may well be one of the most popular tourist destinations in New South Wales but people forget we are a small, regional council and illegal camping is one of the many ‘enforcement’ challenges we are dealing with on a daily basis,’ Ms Burt said.
‘Enforcement staff patrol the shire every day targeting illegal camping and areas like Heritage Park at Mullumbimby, as well as Brunswick Heads and Byron Bay, are routinely visited,’ she said.
‘I encourage people to contact us or use the “Report It” function on our website to notify us of illegal camping problems in their neighbourhood.
‘This is a practical way our community can help us as it provides a clearer picture of what is actually happening out there,’ Ms Burt said.
Heritage park a no-go zone
But the woman who raised the issue of partying tourists in camper vans taking over Mullumbimby’s Heritage Park said her family and neighbours ‘rarely see council officers down there’.
Jodie Ewin told Echonetdaily that both she and her father had used the ‘report it’ facility multiple times, without a response.
Only after one particularly bad night – when her father and a neighbour rang the council and she took to Facebook with their concerns – did council visit, she said.
Ms Burt said council officers ‘do the best with the resources we have but we simply aren’t able to be everywhere at once.’
‘Illegal campers are not contributing much to the local economy and in fact, cost the council and the community money, because we have to clean up after them when they dump their rubbish and leave,’ she acknowledged.
She added that Byron Shire ‘also has a problem with homelessness, which is a social issue and this is often confused with illegal camping’.
‘This is a very complex and challenging issue which involves not just council, but other agencies as well,’ she said,’ Ms Burt said.