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‘Freedom camping’ clampdown to be expanded

Geoff Helisma |

Despite the impracticalities involved in implementing its ‘freedom camping’ initiative in Yamba, Clarence Valley Council (CVC) will expand the program.

A report about the scheme’s trial was tabled at the August 21 council meeting.

Councillors unanimously supported broadening the enforcement areas – Cr Karen Toms declared an interest and did not participate in the item.

Signs prohibiting ‘no stopping’ between the hours of 12.30am and 5am will be installed at the Main Beach car park, at the northern end of Pilot Street, in the Spookys Beach car park at Angourie and at the Yamba Surf Club parking area (the report to council notes that, alternatively, this area could be designated a drop-off zone only, with one extra disabled space).

These signs will have to be approved by CVC’s traffic committee before installation.

At last year’s October meeting, councillors allocated $20,000 towards the trial, with the cost to be recouped via penalty notices.

To date, however, the trial, which included the installation of 80 signs, has had a net cost $6,162, after subtracting revenue raised through fines.

Ironically, the cost of employing enforcement officers ($3,300) was significantly more than the 21 fines issued ($1,785 at $85 per fine).

“A typical enforcement action (two staff for five hours at overtime rates) costs about $660 in wages,” the trial’s report states.

“To recoup those costs, council would need to issue at least eight fines each patrol.

“Experience to date suggests that such a ‘goal’ is unrealistic, unless significant numbers of non-camper parking infringements are issued.”

Enforcement actions took place on four occasions between December 29, 2017 and February 9, 2018, some of which raised the ire of long-term fishers, who argued they should be provided exemptions.

The report notes that on January 25, of the 20 tickets written, the 17 issued at Ocean Street and Pacific Parade, Yamba, “were put on hold and subsequently not enforced on the basis that the required signage in these areas were in some cases not installed until that same day, possibly after some cars were parked there”.

None of the 17 cars booked were occupied by campers.

Meanwhile, multiple campers were observes at Turners Beach; however they were not booked, “as signs were not yet installed”.

Regarding exemptions for fishers or unoccupied cars parked in signed areas, the report rates the idea “to be practicably unfeasible as the scheme would need to be extended to all residents”.

Whilst noting that “a permit system such as beach access permits would be likewise difficult and expensive” and that “a specific request has been made at Angourie and by fishers at Green Point”, staff advised that the introduction of “special exemptions” is “not feasible or warranted in the circumstances”.

Instead, staff recommended continuing “emphasis on community consultation”.

In general terms, staff rated the trial and the program as being “successful in limiting the growth of the issue”.

Curiously, there is no mention of erecting signs at the Whiting Beach or Turners Wall car parks.

The council’s director for this issue, Des Schroder, was unavailable for comment when the Independent enquired, minutes before the paper’s editorial deadline.

. . . . . . . . .

In all of these 17 cases the cars were vacant – not occupied by campers…

• 29 December 2017 at Angourie area – 12 vehicles/owners given warnings and moved on. This being the first enforcement, this was seen as a reasonable approach rather than going straight to issuing fines

• 4 January 2018 at Angourie -12 tickets issued (Green Point, Blue Pools, Spookies and Angourie). At the time, there were 13 campers in the Turners Beach car park but as signs were not yet installed, no action could be taken.

• 18 January 2018 – Angourie – 5 tickets issued (Green Point and Angourie). One camper identified at Turners but signs yet to be installed.

• 25 January 2018 – Yamba and Angourie areas. 20 tickets issued. 17 issued at Ocean Street and Pacific Parade were put on hold and subsequently not enforced on the basis that the required signage in these areas were in some cases not installed until that same day, possibly after some cars were parked there. In all of these 17 cases the cars were vacant – not occupied by campers.

• 9 February 2018 – Angourie and Yamba areas. 2 tickets issued (Green Point and Angourie).

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