Clover Moore vows to step up campaign against camping backpackers

Independent MP for Sydney Clover Moore has vowed to step up efforts to stop backpackers camping in vans in Kings Cross and Woollomooloo if her re-election is confirmed.  

Writing in her last e-newsletter before the polls opened at the weekend, Moore said reform was needed to make it illegal to sleep in or sell a parked vehicle in NSW, which would allow council rangers to take action.

She added: “If I am re-elected as Member for Sydney, I will put this request to the incoming Government and ask for urgent action. If the Government doesn’t respond, I will introduce a Private Members Bill.”

Following community meetings in Victoria Street to discuss solutions, Moore wrote to the then Minister for Roads and Shadow Minister for Roads and Ports suggesting an unused, RTA-owned site in William Street could be used as a place for backpackers to buy and sell vehicles. Other alternative locations are also being investigated.

A crackdown on defective vehicles and illegal parking in the area has resulted in more than 2000 penalty notices being issued and 24 vehicles towed since August 2010.

The e-newsletter concludes:

If you want fewer backpacker vehicles causing problems in Victoria Street, I urge you to also write to the new Minister for Local Government immediately after the election. Report all incidents of anti-social behaviour, including people urinating in public and breaching Alcohol Free Zones, to Kings Cross Police on 8356 0099.”

Moore is tipped to hold off a strong challenge from Liberal candidate Adrian Bartels to retain the seat she has held since 1988.

0 thoughts on “Clover Moore vows to step up campaign against camping backpackers

  • March 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Well,I`ve been hoping this sort of politicized reaction could have been avoided..

    I`ve made my suggestions and hoped action would have been taken to avert just such a situation: looks like the stable door might have been left open a wee bit too long….

    Vanpackers are basically the fastest-growing sector in the backpacker/youth-adventure travel demographic. Coping with this massive increase in camping backpackers has required more attention from all industry participants for some time but hasn`t had it.

    Many backpacker owners detest them,seeing them as a direct contributor to falling bed night figures and illegal use of facillities on their properties.

    I believe they are correct on both counts,but prefer to work in with the vanpacker by allowing them paid use of facillities and off-road parking. Those backpacker resorts without off-road parking cannot offer this:their opposition to working with the vans is understandable.

    The blame for the impact of van-packers on backpacker resort numbers shouldn`t,however,be sheeted home to van hire companies but to our official promotional agencies,who have failed to ‘grow’ our slice of the international traveller market over the last 10 years.For whatever reason ( lack of clarity for mine ) growth in our sector`s numbers has been disappointing,to say the least!

    Once again,could the powers that be put the vanpacker phenomenon and how to best manage it on the whiteboard at the next BTAP meeting,please?

  • March 28, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Peter Ovenden and I will make sure this is on the BTAP agenda.

    We were both involved in the first meeting of the Australian RV Camping Forum held in Sydney last month. After looking at some of the issues you’ve raised Scotty, it was agreed at this meeting, that the New Zealand Freedom Camping Forum model could be used a guide to maintain consistency between New Zealand and Australia.

    Some initial outcomes and suggestions at this forum also included:
    – drafting a code of conduct for travellers,
    – investigating ways to distribute and maintain consistent messaging to educate travellers on where it is safe and legal to camp, with the suggestion that online resources similar to the NZ’s should be developed, and
    -agreement that a national focus is important, with input required from all levels of government, TA, STOs,Caravan, RV and Accommodation Industry representatives.

    The new forum, currently being coordinated by the CMCA (Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia), will meet twice a year. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 9 August, 2011 at the Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport, Mascot.

    From a NSW perspective, the BOA NSW Executive Committee and I are also in consultation with Randwick and Sydney City Councils on this issue, and are lobbying the NSW Government & Tourism NSW to include this as policy action items.

    At Randwick, this week, I am meeting with Council, local tourism representatives and police to talk through the issues and look at some viable solutions, which may include overnight camping permits in designated spots across the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. I am hoping this may become a benchmark case study for other traveller friendly Councils to help alleviate some of the public vs traveller angst.

    It’s a case of all working together on this one, and I’m interested to hear from tourism operators and hostels who have solutions to make van-packers welcome and suggestions or examples where Councils are making it work for everyone.

    Solutions are always better than blaming someone else for the issue – let’s get our heads together and come up with something proactive and positive.

  • March 28, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Thanks for your good news, Katrina.

    I know it`s been worked on before, with you heavily involved, on a State level: this is a national issue,which BTAP is recognizing. I`m sure I`m not the only one to welcome this news

    This is a good opportunity for those backpacker resorts who do want to work-in with van-packers to get involved.Please disseminate this amongst those who don`t go on Thumb,folks. It`s important.

  • March 29, 2011 at 9:42 am

    @Katrina, thanks for your request for input on this issue.

    Approx 9mths ago the camper-van/free-camping situation was identified as a possible future issue in Mission Beach. The local Tourism Organisation, Mission Beach Business & Tourism decided it would be beneficial to be proactive & begun formulating a management plan to both encourage visitors in camper-vans & educate them on designated/legal places to stay.

    I think it is important to note that there are no free camping facilities along Mission Beach & the committee of MBBT position is that in the long term, a pristine beach is more value to tourism than free camping.

    A meeting was held with Council, Police & MBBT reps in attendance, the outcome being said management plan. All participants were residents & stake holders in the well being & promotion of our town.

    A document was produced that clearly explained the no free camping situation & included a map showing the many camp-grounds with great facilities available along Mission Beach, this document was funded by the Police as part of their community policing initiative. The document also included information on public drinking/nuisance laws. Local council committed to providing more sign-age for the area, several camper-van companies expressed interest at including this information in their vehicles.

    The accommodation costs to visitors in camper-vans was carefully considered, some locations charging as little as $15 per night for amazing facilities was seen as good value.

    Visitors to our town are an asset & contribute greatly to our economy, whether arriving by bus or van all should be made welcome.

    This document was almost ready for circulation 2 mths ago but due to a recent weather event has been postponed.

    I hope this has been of some help & I’m sure there will be many comments to this issue. Feedback is invited.

  • March 29, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Presuming I have read the tea-leaves correctly, NZ recently enacted nationwide legislation to allow local Councils to fine freedom campers in NZ up to $20,000 (…and I hope you were sitting down when you read that, Boyd!) for illegal camping, under certain circumstances. Sure, I doubt anyone will ever be handed a fine for $20K, but that figure offers quite a potential bite, behind the bark. (Ref: an article from the Daily from my old stomping ground:

    And with respect to Katrina’s comment about this being a “case of all working together”: that is precisely what is being attempted on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. (At least, the western end of the GOR). Last week residents and operators within Port Campbell met with the local Shire Council to discuss this, and tabled a broad suite of potential solutions to “it”. Sure, part of the talk necessarily floated into discussion about regulation; and how to communicate said regulations; and enforcing legislation, to this segment of the market. But, also, a significant proportion of talk revolved around developing plausible accommodation alternatives to this end of the market, who appear to be reluctant purchasers of ‘normal’, traditional budget accommodation providers.

    Katrina, you asked to hear from operators and hostels who may have solutions,so…

    Over the period of months that supposedly passed as last “summer”, my Hostel implemented a system that offered Vanpackers ($10.00 p/p, p/n) controlled and limited key-card access to the building and it’s facilities/amenities (showers, our kitchen, etc), but without providing access to a dorm bed. (After all, they were sleeping in their vans). This was met with success… for those who chose to use that system. However…

    There continued to be a large swath of Vanpackers who appeared very unwilling to take up the opportunity… no matter how cheap we set the tariff. They (apparently) did NOT want to pay anything for accommodation as long as they were – in their eyes – allowed to camp, for ‘free’, in our township’s streets.

    I can understand that tightening regulation about this will be met with raised eyebrows from some regular Thum contributors, but also cannot help but feel that a consistent, transparent approach to whatever the ‘law’ will be, or is, underpinning freedom camping around Australia MUST form an element of a holistic solution to this.

    (Finally, on a lighter note- the banner ad appearing on NSW’s BOA’s homepage ( raised a smile with me, with respect to this topic and where Australia’s official reaction to freedom camping may be heading. BOA’s banner ad states: “ILLEGAL HOSTELS don’t put up with it. dob ‘em in, now!”… It don’t take a huge leap to get to: “ILLEGAL CAMPING don’t put up with it.dob ‘em in now!”)

  • March 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    @Tony: my system is same-same as yours and allows use of undercover parking and facillities,not beds.

    However,the problem is that you have to understand it from a vanpacker`s point of view: they`re paid for a self-contained,mobile “backpackers” in their eyes (apart from the lack of a shower & loo).

    Paying $15-20 per person to sleep in their van? Not too many will do that when they can pick up a comfy,air-conditioned bed in a dorm for the same price,if not less,in most tourist destinations around Oz at the moment.

    Why pay twice?

    As a Mission Beach operator,I can tell you now that at least 90% of the vanpackers passing thru Mission free camp. There is totally inadequate no-camping signage(especially since cyclone Yasi!Cant see it being a Council priority to erect it, either,given the circumstances…) and no threat of sanction for those caught doing same in the many park-up areas across our town.Beside which, there`s no-one enforcing this by-law.

    Once again, we need to keep it real: van packers have chosen to invest in a mobile solution to the challenges of getting around AND sleeping around this huge country.

    They enjoy the freedom this gives them and that it allows them to SAVE MONEY. There may be some of them who will decide to pay for the use of facillities more often if the price is right but there are an awful lot of travellers who enjoy the challenge of “doing” a country as cheaply as possible.

    Our industry NEEDS to do business with the van-packers/freedom travellers: they book trips, shop in our local stores, buy petrol (and a LOT of oil!!!) and go on tours.

    To me, the Carrot and the Stick is the best NATIONAL solution: big,juicy Carrot (welcoming them into our accommodation & offering discount camping facillities), hefty Stick (move on directive first,then $50 on-the-spot fines i.e. payable INSTANTLY or tyre clamps, that sort of thing).

    Just like bringing up kids,really.

  • March 29, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I wish this woman Moore would bugger off. Stop interfering and trying to control everything. She’s a control freak. Get out of our lives Mayor or MP or whetever it is you are today. There are more things you should be concerned than a few backpackers. I am a resident and every day I see a car or 2 outside my door. They are not hurting anyone. They don’t interfere with anyone. They bring character to the neighbourhood. They bring a “Manhattishness” to the neighbourhood. They spend money woman. Yes, hard earned money they have made for themselves ( as opposed to the money you spend which is everyone else’s). Best of all, they bring fun and we like them. So bugger off Clover, you sticky beak. You don’t own the joint.

  • March 29, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I have just received a letter under my windscreen on Victoria St Potts Point letting me know that they are thinking of putting in parking metersTo stop the ampervans

    Is This Clover Moore’s idea to stop the camper vans or just a grab for Cash?
    I suggest the latter.

    Parking meters will make it wore for the people that live or work on Victoria St. and the backpackers will simply toss the fines on the Street .

  • March 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Hey Rob Dub, leave me your address and I’ll sent ’em round (every day), and let you look after ’em. (Just make sure you adhere to a few ‘unwritten’ rules about this. And do not, under ANY circumstances, put your hand out for payment for any of the following, ’cause not only can they bring a “Manhattishness” to your ‘hood, they also spend their own hard earned… on what, buggered if I know. But it certainly ain’t accommodation and the bulldust that we budget accommodators put up with in providing a roof over people’s heads).

    So, here’s what I expect they will expect when they turn up. Each Night. After night. After night. After night… (you get the picture)

    1. Let them use your shiny and clean shi__er, then watch them walk away and leave it like a pigsty (I dunno who’s going to clean it, ’cause they certainly don’t see to keen to pick up the Ajax).

    2. Similarly, invite them in to use your showers (tho’ ditto for shower cleaning. They’ll use, but clean? No-way!).

    3. Extend your “Robsitality” by letting them use your kitchen facility (whoops, ditto about cleaning the kitchen up there, as well Rob… I’m betting you won’t find many – if any – of them stopping by to clean up their mess, after they leave).

    4. Let them take as much of your kitchen’s cutlery (etc) as you feel happy to see walk out your door, as they go-about re-stocking their budget Vans in preparation for their onwards journey. (There’s a good reason why some of these Vans cost around the same to rent as a 5-door Hyundai Getz… some of the Vans I’ve seen at the real budget end of the scale are stocked with 9/10ths of bugger all, despite being promoted to the punter as an ‘accommodation’ option).

    5. Finally, wave them all a cherry ‘so-long’ when they leave, while you clean up after them in preparedness for the next wave. Which will swing by tonight. And another wave tomorrow night. Then another the night after that. In fact, be prepared to offer up your hospitality every day of the year.

    By the way, you were clear that they get to enjoy all this for free, right? So that you, as a good ole’ small business owner gets to shell out your hard earned, to cater for their wants and desires. (Who’s paying to clean after them? For the power they’ve consumed? Their water? To restock the loo paper? Small items, we all know this. But, who’s paying? Are you paying, Rob?)

    And don’t stop at ‘one or two cars’. Think 10 or 20 Vans. With 3 or 4 people. All wanting similar services, FOR FREE… every night.

    So, yeah… Bugger Off, Clover! Stop being such a control freak!

  • March 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    So, there are definitely some extreme views out there,huh?

    Tony, you say you`re on the GOR. Sounds like a vision of hell,mate. Didn`t know it was that bad down there with the free campers (worse than Detroit!)

    Paying guests display the same habits as you`ve levelled against the vanpackers (apart from not stealing as many pots and pans; spoons and forks, definitely!). Obviously, it feels a bit better to see a toilet desecrated by a paying guest, money in pocket being the big improvement when reaching for the toilet duck.I totally understand.

    Once again, as has been pointed out before, the war that`s being fought is country-wide, the flashpoint being Kings Cross. The history of this problem in the Cross has been explored by Peter Burke of TAB in the past( closure of the car markets). The problem exists because they buy and sell in Sydney and still need somewhere to do this.

    I believe the locals there could be a little more tolerant of the situation (like Rob Dub), as I`m sure that not all of those selling their vans ARE foreign vanpackers, only a minority would be treating the place as a dump and they must spend SOME money in the locale.

    However,it`s up to those affected in Sydney to respond: let democracy prevail. But that will not remove the problem,only transfer it to another area.

    Same as the illegal camping debate: the van hire companies assure me that they inform their clients against free camping but cannot control what they do once they drive away.

    To me, it`s like the provision of sharps containers in public toilets: shooting up drugs is illegal but authorities recognise that it`s going to happen and provide the containers as a service and a form of public protection.

    Turning a blind eye and encouraging the skinflint freedom campers who refuse to ever pay to at least park-up at areas with public toilets is a similar “less of two evils” solution to the present problem.

    I acknowledge that businesses that cater for back/vanpackers, including my own, can`t help but be frustrated at wouldbe guests using ( abusing?) public facillities and sleeping rough in their cars rather than pay and stay in their accommodation,but the reality is, they`ll never pay us and we may as well make sure they`re less of a bother for everyone.

  • March 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Boyd – I’ve been trying to come up with a title to tack to this issue, for a while. Not really sure that a term such as ‘illegal camping’ helps add much sizzle to the steak, in a manner of speaking.

    So, picking up on a potential issue you point out in a statement from your last post (…”that will not remove the problem, only transfer it to another area”) and a phrase Rob D added to the mix a few posts back (Mr. Dub talked about VPs and CPs adding to the “Manhattishness” of a community)… it’s finally become clear what we’re all talking about.

    “The Manhattan Transfer”.

  • March 29, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    … or perhaps “The Vanhattan Transfer”

  • March 29, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    What a exciting discussion !!!
    I am a Vanpacker. Have you ever ask us what we think about this issue?

    First, Australia invite us to come down all the way to here, ’cause you must recognize “there’s nothing like Australia”.
    Second, after stepped on the Kangaroo Land you realize how expensive is this country. Then, as a low budget traveller you wanna make your bucks worthwhile, so “there is nothing like to rent you own van”
    Third, as the bucks are not enough, ’cause buying food & drinks everyday, paying around $58 as per the Van daily rent, filling petrol, sometimes paying tolls and parking (believe it or not) and paying tours and the like, “there is nothing like to find a job”. So we can get extra money, stay longer, spend more and tangenly we can also contribute to the Aussie labour market.
    Fourth, “there is nothing like to been chased out from one place to another”, pushing us to pay either a backpacker hotel or camping site (extra bucks btw $15-$30)
    Fifth, “there is nothing like to feel that FRIENDLY Aussie hospitality”
    Sixth, “there would be nothing like to find a worthiest destination !!!
    Seventh, “there would be nothing like never come back to Australia”
    Eighth “there would be nothing like to tell our friends that THERE IS NOTHING like Australia”
    Finally my friends “There would be nothing like to come up with a good solution for us !!! Otherwise “There would be nothing like less backpacker coming to Australia” (and some of you might be happy…)

  • March 30, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Juan – welcome to Thum!

    Not going to go through each one of the points you make, but there are a few things that may rankle with some folk.

    Firstly, you managed to get yourself all the way to this broad, isolated, brown land but then – and only then – discover that things cost money! Research, Juan… research!

    And if your $$$ ain’t lasting as long as you’d like, perhaps look at what and where you’re spending them. You mention your money is not going as far as you’d like ‘cause you’re buying things like drinks every day. Hmmm… accommodation, or booze… accommodation, or booze. Do I need digs, or to buy another box of Goon? (Google up Abraham Maslow and see what he’d have to say).

    Vanpackers may feel they’re getting “chased” from one place to another because they’re electing to stay in locations where it’s illegal to camp. (Illegal, as in “against the law”). Juan, I can point you to heaps and heaps of brilliant budget accommodators, in great destinations at least at my neck of the woods, who are only too happy and willing to welcome VPs into their establishments. If only the VPs would knock on their doors…

    And as for being asked to pay $15-$30… I’m currently working my way through the hoops with my local Shire, to allow them to ‘permit’ me to legally (?) take-in VPs, at $10.00 p.p/p.n. That’s 10 bucks, Juan, which offers VPs access to all the amenities in my Hostel – as long as they sleep in their van. (Yes Martin, that’s my Hostels plug…)

    I can understand that you may feel a little p__ed with what I believe you’ll perceive to be overly restrictive rules and regulations relating to where VPs (and the ilk) are permitted to stay. However, I feel one thing visitors to Auz would do well to understand is that I reckon most Aussies would expect most visitors to these shores to abide by what are reasonable expectations about where anyone is ‘allowed’ to drop anchor, each night. So, if there are suitable accommodation experiences available wherever it is you end up at, at the end of your days travel, knock on those accommodators doors… you never know what they may be able to do for you!

    If you choose to camp in your van, for free, in areas where that behavior is clearly not accepted, then don’t be surprised if someone asks you some questions. So far as I’m aware, Australia doesn’t have Juan rule for Vanpackers, and another rule for everybody else.

  • March 30, 2011 at 11:01 am

    @ Des, Tony, Scotty – all fantastic feedback, which we’ll take into our meetings here in NSW and for BTAP agenda.

    @ Des – be keen to get a copy of the Management Plan that you put together in consultation with Council up in Mission Beach. We’re keen to share this with Randwick and other NSW Councils to support areas where free camping is not viable (and in urban areas where it is just not possible). Appreciate if you could send it to sometime this week. We’re scheduled to meet up with Randwick CC et al next Monday.

    @ Tony, Scotty – Great to hear that you and a lot of other hostels are tackling this head on and offering up facilities for nominal fees. I hope $10-$15 a night helps in a small way to replace the cutlery and clean up after some travellers who haven’t learnt yet how to do that for themselves.

    @ Rob – it is a pity that more residents aren’t as tolerant, yet totally understand teh frustrations when Councils don’ have robust ways of enforcing parking restrictions and fines. Am liking suggestions from other posts about consolidating the fine systems together and rental companies charge extra fine admin fees to make sure travellers pay up.

    Appreciate not all areas are perfect for travellers to park, so it’s a delicate balance between finding a national stance on where travellers can park/camp, creating clear “no parking/camping” signage and consistent traveller communication, enforcing quickly and effectively and engaging with the locals, councils, police and tourism stakeholders to make sure everyone is on the same page.

    @Juan – Glad you made it out here and are getting out and exploring Australia. Yep, Australia isn’t as cheap as other destinations around the world, we never promised that! Hope you can find a way to stretch your budget a little further – there are lots of jobs around and plenty of welcoming Aussies who’d love you to see their backyard. You just have to understand that they may not be so keen to have you you camped out right there!

  • March 30, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    @Katrina, no problems, I’ve left a message with our MBBT manager & should be able to have something for you in a few days.


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