BOA NSW president Katrina Greeves updates the industry on what the association has been doing about the thorny issue of illegal camping by backpackers.
Thanks to Thumbrella readers for sharing your local van-packer experiences and meetings with local stakeholders. I thought I’d give the industry a quick update on what we’ve been doing here in Sydney with Randwick City Council, which is turning into a very positive consultation process.
BOA vice president Matt Clay attended the recent working party with Randwick mayor Murray Matson, local tourism, city council and resident/business representatives (unfortunately, the police rep wasn’t able to attend).
The main objective was clear: to find a viable solution to manage the situation of travellers camping overnight in key parts of the eastern beaches (Clovelly, Coogee, Bondi and South Maroubra), particularly in peak periods. Mayor Matson’s aim is to have a solution in place for the next high season starting in December.
BOA presented to Randwick City Council your case studies in north Queensland and the Great Ocean Road. These were well received and became the catalyst for a constructive and positive discussion over viable options in the eastern beaches.
It was evident from this meeting that Council and the local business community/residents were very supportive of travellers/backpackers visiting the region – some locals even help direct travellers down to the Clovelly carpark when they get lost! They recognised the positive economic benefits and were keen to continue to welcome travellers in the area and not totally ban all access to van-packers, particularly as their impact was minimal during off-peak periods.
Key issues identified were similar to the Australian RV camping forum initial meeting: the need for improved signage, robust enforcement options and better communication of suitable camping facilities to be distributed to travellers, particularly during peak periods. A code of conduct was not discussed or considered a key driver to resolve the issue at this stage.
Council liked the flyer produced for Mission Beach, and BOA is willing to work with all stakeholders to consult on something similar for Sydney, which clearly showed the accessible and legal campgrounds/areas where it was legal to camp overnight. There may be an opportunity to distribute locally, potentially through enforcement officers, and of course through tourism operators with direct traveller contact: campervan rental companies, local tourism operators and visitor information centres.
The working party are keen to include a representative from the campervan industry at the next meeting to determine what information can be provided to travellers in future
There was no resolutions made at this meeting, however it seems that seasonal restrictions, better seasonal signage coupled with traveller information and a decisive approach to enforcing fines may be under consideration, particularly for Clovelly carpark. There was also some discussion over other suitable locations, which could be used for overnight camping. Further consideration will be given by Council to this matter.
BOA supports the enforcement of fines, as long as there is clear signage, and reinforced the need for travellers to be provided with suitable information on where they can safely park by the ‘enforcers’ and tourism stakeholders.
Further consultation will take place among the local Councils, particularly Sydney City Council, and the working party will meet again in a few months’ time.
The consultation process in Randwick looks like it will create a benchmark for other Sydney councils, and BOA will continue to consult on this issue to ensure that backpackers hiring campervans are made welcome in Sydney and are aware where it is safe and legal for them to camp.
BOA will continue to take on the role of educator and lobbyist, and will encourage our members to educate travellers who choose to travel by campervan into Sydney Metro and regional areas.
We’d appreciate if others in the industry can keep us in the loop with any wins/resolutions or further developments in their area.