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Backpackers Off The Planet

By Duncan Horscroft on January 21, 2011 in News

Backpacker madness hit the beaches of the east over the Christmas and New Year period.

Clovelly car park was in the news more than once after it became a camping ground for wandering tourists and their campervans.

And, to be fair, some of those taking advantage of the blue-chip views in the ‘free van park’ were unaware the area was off limits to overnight stays.

After all, Clovelly was featured on YouTube as a free location with beautiful ocean views and amenities.

More than 50 vans a day took advantage of Clovelly and many of these stayed for more than one night, ignoring Randwick Council’s ‘high-tech’ signage duct-taped to a pole warning of a $1100 fine for camping overnight.

With the council on skeleton staff over the holiday period there was supposedly no one around to enforce the penalties.

All the publicity and complaints finally spurred Randwick Council into action when they returned to work – on the Tuesday after New Year’s Day.

According to the council, “rangers and local police moved on 45 vehicles parked overnight at Clovelly, Coogee, Maroubra and Malabar beaches”.

But it was a case of the horse had bolted as there were more than that number daily in the Clovelly car park over the Christmas/New Year period and that was the time when most locals were heading to the beach with their families.

Council also said they “installed new signage prohibiting overnight parking at all its beachside car parks”.

“Backpackers and international tourists are welcome in Randwick but the message needs to get out there that freeloading in a public car park for days on end is not acceptable,” Cr Matson said. “Council will also consider a long term strategy to provide designated areas for campervans at its meeting in February.”

Just where these so-called designated areas would be located is itself an enigma.

It is not as though we are blessed with a lot of wide-open spaces around the Eastern Beaches and to provide facilities for campervans would be a costly exercise that inevitably would fall back on the ratepayers.

The laws should have been enforced long ago and the companies who provided the vehicles held liable before the event. Regular registration, licence and passport checks would have gone a long way toward solving the problem.

Vans were also spotted around the Waverley area, parked in zoned areas for days on end, seemingly immune to the wrath of the parking officers.

One Beach Road resident even witnessed a backpacker urinating on the lawn outside his unit block in broad daylight, out in the open, in the middle of the morning.

And it wasn’t only the vans that were the problem either.

A couple living in Warners Avenue near a unit block renowned for housing backpackers said they were regularly kept awake for weeks on end by drunken tourists partying until all hours.

The backpackers even had the audacity to ask the couple if they could use their laundry and after the request was denied the couple arrived home the next day to find the common laundry area in their unit block trashed.

We all like to save money when we are on holidays but it is fair to say most Australians respect local laws when overseas as the penalties in some countries are very severe and the accommodation is usually very cheap… especially inside their jails.

It is time we adopted a similar heavy-handed approach and let these tourists know this beautiful country of ours is not here for them to abuse.

Let’s hope this New Year’s Eve that parents can take their kids to the Clovelly car park and watch the spectacular Coogee fireworks in comfort without having to sidestep the piles of garbage and other waste left by backpackers.

And maybe Cr Matson can film his own YouTube clip – well before the event.

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