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Byron Shire
April 24, 2024

Illegal camping in Byron Council’s sights

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Byron Shire Council has turned its sights on illegal campers over the holiday period. Photo greynomads.com.au

Byron Shire Council staff say illegal camping will be targeted over the holiday period.

Director sustainable environment and economy Shannon Burt said staff will be issuing fines to people caught camping illegally or sleeping in their cars.

‘There are 15 legal campgrounds in the Byron Shire and many have very reasonable rates, even at this time of year, so our message to people is that if they are coming to Byron for a holiday they need to pay to stay,’ Ms Burt said.

She said residents are ‘sick and tired of people pulling up outside their houses, near the beach, or in bushland and setting up camp without any proper facilities.’

Rubbish and defecating and urinating in the bush or in public areas, creates health hazards and also pollutes our beautiful environment, she says. ‘There is also the danger of campfires getting out of control,’ she adds.

She says the on-the-spot fine of $110 per person for Illegal camping can reach up to a maximum of $110,000. Residents wanting to report illegal campers can visit www.byron.nsw.gov.au or call 6626 7000.

Rubbish left by locals at Clarkes Beach. Photo Dave Bryant

Green and Clean team complaint

Meanwhile Byron Bay locals are losing their cool over the effect campers are having on the foreshore.

Green and Clean Awareness Team member Dave Bryant took the above photo and others he published on the Voice of Byron Facebook Page inside the trees and forest near Clarkes Beach in Byron Bay.

‘While participating in our monthly clean up we often go in to the forest on the dunes to clean up rubbish and from time to time we find a deserted tent site and general waste which might take five to ten minutes to clean up,’ Mr Bryant said on Facebook.

‘But this Sunday was simply disgusting to put it bluntly: two very large camping sites, one of which featured a leather couch, waterlogged clothing and bedding piled high, fake grass, countless back packs, tent poles and pegs, milk crates, plastic bottles, cans – the list goes on.

‘This is not a complaint, but is this homeless people or tourists?

‘Why go to the trouble of setting this up, using the site for a while then simply trashing the environment and expecting others to clean up after them.

‘I have sent a couple of photos to the Shire [Council] with a report of the areas of concern.

‘This will take a huge clean up and in my opinion, if this is what people do, make camp only to leave it like this a week later – I say leave this mess there as it might be a deterrent for the next group who come along in the hope of finding a lovely, clean site to set up and repeat this mess again and again.

‘This simply isn’t good enough and Green and Clean have worked for 20 years rebuilding this forest environment… while careless folks do their best to destroy it,’ he said.


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  1. As one of the volunteers who clean up and re vegetate the dune area between the surf club and Clark’s caravan park on a monthly basis. I was shocked and disgusted that people would simply walk away ,abandon the sites and leave all there rubbish and human waste for others to clean up. The camps pose a health and safety risk and as volunteers we are not equipped to be cleaning up this type of rubbish. Reporting them to the council has not resulted in any change to the behaviour of these campers.
    One could be excused for feeling that the situation will only get worse in the next few weeks.

  2. Great that Council is stepping up.
    We need a campaign and more action to reclaim Byron and change the culture to valuing the biodiversity and protecting areas for the peace and wellbeing of locals.
    “Pay to Stay” Respect Byron support our community something like this rather the no camping.
    It is outrageous that we are paying rates to have people rip out signs that cost Council and then reduce the availability of funds for community, defecate in public places so that our rangers clean up human faeces and toilet paper and dump their rubbish. There are visitors that are ripping out plants in reserves to create their own indoor gardens.
    There are regular free campers that avoid paying anything and regularity take up car spaces all day so that local surfers can’t get a surf. There was a well equipped four wheel drive ( photo can be supplied) with their wading between two no standing and camping signs at Seven Mile Beach. It makes a mockery of all stakeholders and basically says to every other tourist this place is worth nothing do what you like.
    We need a community response to this stickers, signage, brands that trade on the image of free living to start to communicate that free camping is not cool it is sustainable in areas that can’t cope with regular maintenance let alone people effectively using our town as a free camp site.
    I am sure all of us have free camped in our lives but things are different areas are under extreme pressure environmentally and from tourism visitation. Instagram and social media is flogging places. Climate change influences and extreme weather is making nature more vulnerable.
    Byron is so incredibly beautiful we can afford to hold a hard line.
    We need to harness the power of locals to start to send a message that free camping is not tolerated.
    Likewise if you see a tourist with a dog in a nature reserve or on the beach politely let the kids in that this is also illegal.
    Overtime this approach will attract the type of tourist that is more respectful and comes here because they want to visit nature in as pristine condition not covered in toilet paper.

  3. Why just the holiday period? Illegal camping is the boon of the bay. Every day. Hundreds live in the car parks, streets and bush. Nothing is paid for up-keep or clean-up. Nothing is contributed for toilets, water, library use, garbage collection, except to Woolies and the grog shops. I subsidise this via rates and other charges, Why does Council allow this? Who isn’t doing their job? Too hard? Or not trying hard enough?

  4. Only two types of people exist:- those who care for others and the environment and those who don’t give a rat’s **** about anybody other than themselves: wish they would keep out of this Shire !!.

  5. Again I would like to remind readers that the illegal camping problem is not exclusively a Byron problem – Brunswick Heads is a hotspot for illegal van packers as well, in both Bayside and in town over behind the surf club. People sleep in their cars in streets throughout Brunswick Heads – you can drive down almost any residential street and find vans of people living there on the street verge outside houses. They steal our water, mis-use our bins and use our beautiful reserves and bushland as their own personal unhygienic toilet facilities. I support any campaign that gets across the message that visitors to the SHIRE, not just the Bay, must PAY TO STAY. They seem to have enough money to frequent BWS for their alcohol and cigarettes (I have personally observed them as I recognise many of the vehicles which frequently drive through barriers out the back of Bayside). It’s a challenging job for council staff to keep on top of this problem; there are so many illegal campers, and not a conscience between them.

  6. Reading this makes me laugh. How many of the people writing these comments came to Byron originally in a beat out combi van and camped “illegally” next to the beach.
    Byron bay is simply a victim of its own success. Hippies turned into yuppies, surfers turned into business people and perhaps the exorbitant amount of rent that is charged by “locals” is leading to people taking their chances on the streets….possibly so they can still afford to eat…and yes god forbid drink a beer…from a bottle shop.
    Pay to stay is a load of high horse crap. Being poor is not a crime…the best things in.life are FREE…and if people are so concerned with public dedication perhaps Byron needs some more 24 hour toilets .
    I took my daughter to.the public toilet at main beach carpark and it was in a state worse than a toilet I had seen in India. I let her go in the dunes for fear of contracting dysentery. And this was during the day…not after 7pm when they are closed … LoL.
    Byron shire has a homeless problem because of high rent costs…at $4 an hour parking how does anyone think living in a van is cheap in Byron anyway’.
    The people pay for everything…mabye it’s time to put a bed tax on every bed in town and pay for.some better public facilities instead of complaining like.a bunch of old people about people doing exactly what Byron bay was built on.

  7. Council really needs to step up their response to this issue. Over Christmas time there was doof party held in the nature reserve past the surf club at Brunswick Heads. It was very loud and went on night and day for five days straight. The police were unable to shut it down, saying they are not able to get the Council to help. Walking through the same area during that time I also saw a camper in the reserve using a petrol lawnmower to mow the grass around his tent site – bizarre!

  8. In answer to your question (and mirth) Damo: one of the seven people writing these comments “came to Byron in a beat out Kombi van”, Any other questions you need answered?
    BTW, Tweed Shire and Ballina and Lismore also have homeless problems, and the rents are not nearly as high as Byron shire. The cure needs more than just cheaper rents.


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