Illegal camping continues to be a significant problem in the Byron Shire, with Council’s Enforcement staff working seven days a week patrolling and fining van-packing freeloaders parking at beaches, parks and in residential areas.
“Camping on the streets of the Byron Shire is prohibited and illegal and yet we have experienced unprecedented numbers of people arriving in their vans and blatantly camping overnight in our towns and our streets and out the front of our houses these holidays,” Acting Mayor, Michael Lyon, said.
“It has been a challenging year and I understand we are not experiencing a normal holiday season but I think the vanpackers forget that when they park somewhere and set up for the night that the community is all around them, having to step over their pots and pans on their morning walk, or around the bit of park or footpath being used as a toilet.
“It’s not okay and residents in Brunswick Heads, Mullumbimby and Byron Bay are sick and tired of it,” he said.
“A freeloader is someone who takes something and gives nothing in return and that is just what these vanpackers are doing,” Acting Mayor Lyon said.
Over the Christmas/New Year period there were 12 Enforcement staff working seven days a week on two shifts, starting early and finishing late in the night targeting illegal camping and parking, as well as other issues including uncontrolled dogs.
From 24 December 2020 to 2 January 2021, a total of 1,454 infringement notices were issued with the majority being for illegal camping and parking. One third of the fines (480 fines) were issued between 6pm and 9am.
In recent years Council has changed ‘No Camping’ signage in problem areas of the Shire to ‘No Parking’ to enable staff to use number plate recognition technology to record offences meaning a fine will issue automatically.
“Illegal camping is not an isolated problem of the Byron Shire – other coastal areas including Tweed and Clarence Valley are also struggling.
“In fact our staff have been contacted by councils in Western Australia and Queensland hoping to get some ideas on how to tackle their illegal camping problems,” Acting Mayor Lyon said.
Illegal camping is often confused with homelessness and rough sleeping. Byron Shire Council is one of the most proactive in NSW when it comes to homelessness, employing two Public Space Liaison Officers and currently advertising for a Rough Sleeping project officer.
Byron Shire is the first area in NSW, outside Sydney, to pilot an internationally-renowned project aimed at drastically reducing and hopefully ending rough sleeping.
The Ending Rough Sleeping Byron Shire project is a community-initiated collaboration that is supported by the state-wide organisation, the End Street Sleeping Collaboration.