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Byron Shire
September 28, 2023

Bruns van dwellers move… around the corner

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Byron council estimates up to 160 camper vans are parked illegally each night. (file pic)

Byron Shire Council has carried out its promise to close a public carpark in Brunswick Heads, where a group of van dwellers were reportedly engaging in anti-social behaviour.

But with no alternative site provided, and talk of setting up hot showers and other facilities in the town so far coming to nothing, some are questioning whether the issue has received anything more than a band-aid solution.

A majority of councillors voted to close the South Beach Lane carpark at its May meeting, after home owners on the lane complained that the campers were slamming their doors and playing loud music at all hours, polluting the site with rubbish and human waste, and verbally abusing residents.

Staff followed through earlier this month, moving the campers on, and installing a row of large concrete barriers in the lane to prevent their return.

The move appears to have appeased most of the home owners.

However, with no alternative parking area available, some of the van dwellers appear to have simply moved around the corner to South Beach Road. 

‘To some degree, it’s just moving the situation to another spot,’ said Sarah-Jane McGrath, a local woman experiencing homelessness who advocates for others in a similar situation.

‘I supported the closure of that space, even though I’ve been homeless and living in my van for three years, because I felt the people who created the disharmony needed to be moved on.

‘But nothing has really changed in terms of the overall issue.’

Following its decision to close the car park, Council passed a motion at its next meeting calling on NSW Housing Minister, Rose Jackson, to fund an outreach program that supports those who are genuinely homeless, rather than ‘those who choose to freeload in our streets’.

During that meeting, Mayor Michael Lyon, who moved the motion, said that Council had begun talking to Reflections Holiday Parks, the state-owned corporation which runs many of the Shire’s caravan parks, about making their services available to rough sleepers.

However, nearly two months on, it appears little or no progress has been made to provide additional services for people experiencing homelessness in Brunswick Heads or anywhere else in the Shire.

This is despite the fact that Byron has the highest number of rough sleepers of any local government area in the state, rising 50 per cent in two years.

Not enough facilities 

‘There are clearly not enough facilities in Bruns,’ Ms McGrath says.

‘I know that Council’s GM has been in conversation with Reflections about using their showers and kitchen facilities, but realistically they’re not going to want to afford the cost. I think there’s a great opportunity for an outreach officer to be based at the so-called Bruns Community Centre.

‘But I think one of the most basic needs is a space where homeless people can have a hot shower.’

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  1. I understand this is a serious issue but why is the echo so one sided in these articles, is there no consideration for land owners as well? why are land owners always demonised by the echo? should we just give our homes away or maybe start letting vans park up in our back yards? like seriously how about you come interview us , we are locals and real people too who do care about others but also have our own lives, we are not some robotic evil trying to push these people into the river. I personally worked 40 years full time as a teacher to afford to live here, is that wrong to work hard and have ambition?

  2. Have to agree with Tony..
    The statistics show that so called homeless people have increased by 50% in Byron Shire over any other shires
    Why did they move here? And yes they did move here in the main, most were NOT a product of the 2022 floods.
    Perhaps they moved here thinking that the streets of Byron Shire are paved with gold and the rich Council would provide luxury amenities
    Perhaps they’re like a lot of people who, in my 40 years of living here , think that a new life beckons and move here.
    Well most people are disappointed with the high cost of living, the low wage structure and the high cost of housing and move on
    But not so the so called homeless who don’t really subscribe to any of the above.
    So they will stay, and, should the Council increase the amenities for the so called homeless, many more will arrive in their wake.
    Which is one of the reasons why I can’t park outside my own house in Brunswick Heads and I choose to live, in the main, far, far away.
    See you when I return, Nick Bird

  3. We have same problem on GC. Are these van people seriously homeless or choose the free van life?. There are jobs everywhere and many of the vanners don’t seem to want to work.
    I support any vanner working to be able to use caravan parks but dont open caravan parks to use facilities. You will lose your tourist dollars and create ghettos.
    Maybe councils can provide paid hot shower and laundry facilities. Let’s see how many will pay to do this?
    Agree land owners and workers are subsidising the free campers.
    I’m 71 have to work to pay a mortgage.

  4. The land you claim to own belongs to the first nation’s people, so you have no right to say where we can or cannot park, it’s sickening how entitled some have become.


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