Byron battles to tackle illegal camping

Updated about 2 hours agoFri 19 Sep 2014, 8:56am

Police search Byron Bay’s Arakwal National Park for missing brothers
PHOTO: Illegal campground – police found a number of makeshift campsites while searching Byron Bay’s Arakwal National Park for missing brothers. (Elloise Farrow-Smith – ABC News.)
MAP: Byron Bay 2481
The Byron Shire Mayor says the council has been grappling with the issue of illegal camping for decades.

There’s renewed focus on the situation after police discovered a number of makeshift campsites in the Arakwal National Park during the search for two missing bothers.

Simon Richardson said up to a hundred people sleep rough throughout the shire on any given night.

“We get some groups who are pretty anti-social and camp in some really fragile environmental areas and do a fair bit of damage with tree removal for fires etcetera,” he said.

“Then we get others who probably leave a slightly lighter footprint and come and go and most people wouldn’t really be even aware that they’re actually sleeping rough.”

Cr Richardson said problems with illegal camping are only going to get worse unless something is done.

He said finding legal accommodation alternatives should be a priority.

“Where at least they minimise the anti-social impacts on nearby residents, at least that’s a first step,” he said.

“Of course what we’d love to be able to do is find actual accommodation for those who do seek it.

“Not all rough sleepers actually want accommodation or crisis accommodation, but there are certainly some that if we could provide (it for) them, we would so.”

The National Parks and Wildlife Service said people caught illegally camping risk being fined if they refuse to move on.

Spokesman Lawrence Oral said two notices were recently issued to people found camping in the Arakwal National Park.

He said there are good reasons why camping should be confined to designated areas.

“One of the reasons why illegal camping is a concern is the fires that are associated with these often obviously pose a potential bushfire threat as well,” Mr Orel said.

“That’s something that we’re very keen to reduce as much as possible.”

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