Bingara’s Happy campers pose policy problem for Council

December 2, 2008

Council will consider the matter of motor homes and caravans camping along the northern side of the Gwydir River at Bingara at its monthly meeting on Thursday.

Camping along the river within the town boundaries has previously not been permitted, and signs to that effect were placed at the entrances to the river area.

The Advocate understands the ‘no camping’ sign on the northern side of the river was removed "a couple of months ago".

To cater for the large number of motor homes that arrived before, and stayed on after the CMCA rally, Council allowed camping along the river’s edge within the town limits until November 2.

This offer was taken up by several motor home owners, who, according to Gwydir Shire General Manager, Max Eastcott, packed up and moved out on or before that date.

The problem was, though, other motorhomers and people with caravans saw the CMCA members camped by the river, and moved in to what is a beautiful part of the river.

Council began receiving complaints about the motor homes and caravans camped along the northern side of the Gwydir River in Bingara, downstream from the Campbell bridge, with one resident describing the scene as ‘visual pollution’.

Council is now faced with the problem of what to do about the people who have heard about the free camping site and are taking advantage of it.

The land favoured by the campers is part of a Travelling Stock Route. The Advocate understands that camping on a Stock Route is not legal, unless the camper is in fact a drover.

This land is under the control of the Northern Slopes Rural Lands Protection Board (NSRLPB), but the RLP Board has not enforced the rule.

Mr. Eastcott has put forward some options for the Councillors to consider.

• Do nothing (this may mean the NSRLPB will need to take action to protect themselves against an issue not of their making);

• Exclude camping (install no camping signs and give current campers notice to vacate the site by a reasonable given date);

• Allow camping with or without conditions (this would mean continuing to defy the Rural Lands Protection Act unless Council obtained control over all the land in question. NSRLPB would appear to be in favour of the land transfer). This option may however result in increased opposition to camping by locals as time goes on and is not recommended within the town boundary.

The area favoured by local groups such as the Anglers’ Club, among trees on the northern side, upstream from the bridge, is outside the area covered by the Travelling Stock Route Reserve. Camping in this area is mostly in tents amongst the trees, for no more than three or four days.