Robe District Council discuss control over camping areas

Robe District Council has addressed the issue of campers behaving badly over the summer period.

The council discussed correspondence it received from resident Rosie Stoneham and the management of the Discovery Caravan Park at the June meeting about poor behavior from those camping near their properties in the holiday season. 

Council has received suggestions to introduce a by-law controlling the behaviour of people who wish to camp on urban land in the town. The people who would like to camp on these particular areas would need to lodge an application to do so, paying a fee before becoming approved to camp. 

This would be attached with some conditions relating to the behaviour of those on the blocks and managing the number of people per allotment.

However CEO Roger Sweetman said council did not have the power to adopt a by-law for the purpose suggested. The challenges that council face while managing litter or insanitary conditions during the holiday period is due to the limited resources council has, with council’s environmental health officer working irregularly and the issues of engaging the officer to work during the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Cr David Loxton expressed his thoughts on the matter: “It says we can’t do much Mr Sweetman but it’s not just people who own the block, we could contact the police surely and lodge a complaint.”

Mr Sweetman responded: “Oh certainly we could do that now, yes.”

Cr Loxton added: “And we would check the litter situation, if they haven’t done anything about the litter we would send them a notice to clean it up?”

Mr Sweetman replied: “If the litter’s on their private block then we can’t do anything, however if the litter blows onto the street we can.”

Cr Lawrie Polomka added to the conversation: “The two vital words here are litter and sanitation. That will be pointed out very clearly to the block owners that if they habitat their block, they will have the according legislation.

“That is what I would be pointing out to people.”

Cr Alison Nunan came up with a suggestion about action the council could take before the summer holidays: “The last notices that go out prior to Christmas holidays, we should put a slip in there telling everybody what the rules and regulations are around the uses of vacant blocks around Robe, what our expectations and that we’re not responsible for it.

“Just some information so that they know, yes they can ring and we can help, threaten to the police or whatever, but that ultimately they are responsible for their own blocks and anything that happens on their blocks.”

Mr Sweetman agreed with Cr Nunan, adding that her suggestion could be a part of council’s education process on camping in urban areas including rules and regulations.

Cr John Enright added: “People were faced with people joining nearby blocks, causing trouble, vandalising and going over the fence and into the caravan park to use toilets and that sort of thing. The police just said there is not much we can do, so I think all of this is not really going to have any beneficial effect. So I think we need something a bit more effective than the education program.”

Cr Loxton: “What Cr Enright has said is exactly right and that is when we need to make a complaint to the minister because it is not good enough.”

Cr Polomka questioned Cr Enright: “Cr Enright, what is your alternative? Can you add anything to what we have just said?”

Cr Enright: “Rosie Stoneham came up with a proposal. I can’t remember exactly what she said. But the suggestions she made all seemed pretty sensible at the time.” 

Mr Sweetman: “The problem we have is that Ms Stoneman’s view is that she wants to get on top of the problem before it starts.”

Cr Enright continued: “I’m fine about what is suggested. My concern about it is, it’s just not necessarily going to have any impact, so could we possibly seek more advice.”

Mr Sweetman replied: “Well it’s a police issue, and we have sought their advice and their advice is that if an incident occurs, if they have got the resources and they are there at the time, they will do something about it. But when you have 50 people who are really badly behaved, consuming various substances, one police officer is probably not going to move onto the site and move them on and when we have 17,000 people in town 30 or 40 police have difficultly controlling bad behavior.”

Cr Enright: “I’ll have one more crack at this one. What if we write a letter to the police commissioner or the minister for police or a relative government department and to our local and federal state members. We need to ask if they can make some suggestions. We’ve got to try and do something.”

Councillors resolved that they acknowledge council does not have the ability to implement a by-law to control the behaviour of campers. It will undertake an education process of various methods informing property owners of their responsibilities in relation to litter and insanitary conditions that may arise as a result of camping on their land over the holiday period.

Council will correspond with government agencies, with copies to be sent to state and Federal members, outlining the issues council face and seeking advice as to how this matter can be managed.