Illegal campers being ‘educated’

NOT HERE: This is a Northern Star file photo taken at Byron Bay in January last year where illegal camping has been an ongoing problem.
NOT HERE: This is a Northern Star file photo taken at Byron Bay in January last year where illegal camping has been an ongoing problem.

BALLINA Shire Council is getting in early before illegal becomes a major problem in the shire.

The council has posted a notice on its website about illegal camping and the fines which can be issued.

Kerri Watts, council's senior environmental health officer, said illegal camping is a problem generally in all coastal towns.

But she said it's "not a significant problem" in Ballina Shire.

However, just to the north, "vancampers" - tourists who sleep in campervans or in vehicles - were a big problem in Byron Bay, parking sometimes in residential areas and leaving litter and human waste behind.

And while many are fined, because they are overseas visitors, more often than not, they simply don't pay the fine.

Ms Watts said Ballina council was being proactive so illegal camping in the shire doesn't escalate to the extent it had in Byron Shire.

She said council rangers patrol coastal reserves from Lighthouse Beach through to Lennox Head each morning.

"Public reserves are provided for the enjoyment of all residents and visitors," the website post reads.

"This access for all is affected when people are using these sites to camp."

Ms Watts said the reserves didn't provide amenities for camping. And litter and noise were added potential problems.

Ms Watts said illegal campers could be fined $110.

The fines apply to all illegal campers, including self-contained motorhomes, caravans and people sleeping in cars.

She said rangers would generally issue a warning notice first, and fines for repeat offenders as council tried to educate illegal campers.

Residents who wish to complain about illegal campers can phone council's after-hours number on 6626 6999 and advise the location. The automated service will then alert rangers before they begin their patrol.

For other social problems to do with illegal campers, like noise and violence, the police need to notified.

Meanwhile, a management plan currently is being drawn up for Bicentennial Park at the northern entrance to Ballina.

The park was a designated rest area for the Pacific Highway, but the highway now bypasses it.

It is believed one option for the park is to allow overnight camping, with a dump point for sewage from motorhomes and caravans.

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