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Clarence Valley Council has expanded the areas where it is enforcing its ‘freedom’ camping program, which now includes the above locations. Image: CVC

CVC expands enforcement of ‘freedom’ camping program

Geoff Helisma

Clarence Valley Council’s rangers “issued around 100 Infringement notices over the Christmas and New Year period”, says Adam Cameron, CVC’s acting Environment, Planning & Community director, in a media release.

Meanwhile, some critics have voiced their opinions on the Clarence Valley Rate Payers, Residents & Business Owners Facebook group.

“Where are the Rangers??” asked the initial poster on December 29, 2020.

“Whiting beach car park [has] over a dozen camper vans, [and there are] over a dozen more up near Pippi beach.

“Saw one guy using the logs along the walk way at Whiting as his toilet.”

Note: these observations were actually made at around 8.45pm.

On January 4, Cr Peter Ellem, who is the chair of CVC’s ‘Working Group on Campers’, posted to the thread, which, as of January 8, had 177 comments and 29 shares.

“For your info and others interested in this issue, our rangers, including the newly recruited and trained ones, are doing random patrol blitzes; overnight 46 infringements were issued — Turners Beach 5; Green Point 14; Blue Pools 5 and Spookys-Angourie 22.

“More patrols scheduled.

“And more no parking signs to go up in other parts of Yamba and all coastal towns and villages, as requested by residents and recommended by the working group on illegal camping….

“Cost of signage [is] met within existing budget for signage upgrades.”

Several commenters challenged Cr Ellem’s post.

“Signs are bloody useless mate, you know they’re ignored by all and sundry,” one declared, but there were others who asked for “evidence” that “most locals support” how the fining regime is being implemented.

Councillor Ellem responded to the conflicting views: “Not good enough for all of you, but you should attend the next meeting of the working group to [observe] and get an idea of the logistical and legislative complexities of it all.

“…The working group met in November and its recommendations, with attachments, were reported to Council’s December meeting and unanimously adopted.”

Councillor Ellem told the Independent that the working group will review the current holiday season at its February meeting, “to enable rangers to plan for the Easter period”.

He acknowledged criticisms posted on social media and clarified that he would “ensure” that “formal complaints made to the council via email or rangers [would be] captured and discussed”.

“The pressure over next five to 10 years will demand that something more happens, regarding the management of [freedom camping],” he said.

“Every working party meeting since the trial has been an ongoing review.”

Director Cameron said in the media release that CVC had “received fewer reports of illegal camping compared to last year”.

“Whilst focus has been on the usual hotspots around Yamba and Angourie, rangers are also increasing surveillance in other areas,” he said.

“…we have extended our patrols into Wooli, Minnie Waters and Diggers Camp and these will continue throughout the remainder of the holiday period….

“Anyone who sees illegal camping in the Clarence Valley can report the issue on our website and our team of rangers will respond to these reports as soon as possible.

“Locations are inspected in the morning and evening to determine if any potential illegal campers are planning a stay – infringement notices can be issued for over-stayers between midnight and 5am.”

The enforcement specifically applies to the targeted areas, which are signposted “No Parking 12AM – 5AM”.