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Freedom camping on CVC’s hit list

Geoff Helisma People who camp overnight on streets near beaches in Yamba, be warned: your days are numbered. At last week’s Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, the Working Group on Campers’ recommendations were tabled and adopted unanimously by the valley’s councillors, apart from Cr Karen Toms, who declared an interest as the manager of a Clarence Coast holiday park. The working group’s mandate was “to address concerns of the growth of unregulated camping in or adjacent to vehicles near the Valley’s beaches, most notably in Yamba at peak holiday times”. Campers who flout the new temporary enforcement regime – “over the coming Christmas/January [eight-week] holiday period … and during Easter 2018” can expect a knock on their van with an accompanying parking or no stopping fine of $110 per vehicle. The results of the program, for which $20,000 has been budgeted, will be the subject of “further reporting to Council in 2018”, however, the council will “seek to have the set up costs recouped through penalties during the course of the trial”. Around 180 fines would need to be issued to pay for the initiative. Councillors also endorsed the officer’s recommendation to “undertake community engagement with key stakeholders and the broader Yamba community in advance of the enforcement program commencing”. Stakeholders who participated in the Working Group on Campers were: various CVC staff members, Michael Randall and Elizabeth Smith (Yaegl traditional owners), Deb McCredie and Graham Lee (Yamba Chamber of Commerce), Andrew Lugg (National Parks & Wildlife Service), Iluka resident Col Hennessy (community representative) and Calypso Holiday Park Yamba’s manager Adrian Easdown. The key target areas will be Turners Beach, Hickey Island, Ocean Street (Convent Beach), Pacific Parade (Pippi Beach), Yamba Main Beach, Green Point, Angourie Point, and Spooky Beach and Blue Pools car parks. The report to council states that “the intent of the enforcement program is to send a message to this group of travellers [Wicked and Jucy campervans are mentioned as examples] that Yamba is not the place to come for a free camping beachside experience”. “The most effective form of enforcement is considered to be through parking restrictions,” the report to council stated. “This will require establishing times where car parking is not permitted – midnight to 5am is proposed – and will require installation of adequate signage. “This will then be enforced through regular and targeted policing by Council’s rangers during those times, with the issuing of infringement notices as required.” Negative outcomes of the program are under consideration, too, and include: nearby residents whose vehicles are parked and are not camping receiving parking fines; surfers who park on beachfronts before 5am being fined; overnight ‘freedom campers’ setting up in nearby streets where there are no parking restrictions; ‘freedom camping’ in other Clarence Coast villages, reserves, car parks or national parks. The working group also identified a possible negative impact on trade, citing a 2015 Port Macquarie-Hastings Council survey that found “the daily spend per free camper equated to about $76 per day”, and that Yamba’s image as a tourist destination could be adversely affected.