Actions of few spoil camping joy for many

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It is sad to report that the abuses of some over the holiday period have put yet more free camping areas under threat.

A case in point is the Ellenborough Reserve west of Wauchope on the New South Wales Mid North Coast, which has been a free public camping ground since at least 1930. Residents living near the popular area on the Hastings River have complained about overcrowding, campers ignoring signs, people camping on the river’s edge and leaving rubbish, fires being lit during times of total fire bans campers not using fireplaces, campers not using toilet and garbage facilities, overloading of toilet and garbage facilities, excessive noise, and, people riding loud unregistered motorbikes in the reserve.

One of the upset residents, Les Keane, told the Wauchope Gazette that urgent action needed to be taken.

He said that, about five years ago, Port Macquarie Hastings Council had considered closing Ellenborough Reserve to campers and should do so again. At the very least, he says, the facility should be managed in an appropriate way.

“Council is supposed to be the custodian of the river and the reserve and although there has been some attempts to stop vehicles from accessing the river front people still drive their vehicles to the river causing considerable erosion,” Mr Keane said. “People are camping, lighting fires and burning their rubbish on the riverbank.”

Mr Keane said 90% of campers behaved appropriately but the remainder were causing 90% of the headaches. He said the actions of these few not only disturbed the peace of nearby residents and other campers, but also put the health of the river at risk.

Mr Keane says he has sympathy for those campers who do the right thing but believes someone needs to bite the bullet and close the reserve to camping. He says the reserve already costs ratepayers enormous amounts of money and the money could be better spent elsewhere.

The NSW Crown Reserve came under the control of Port Macquarie-Hastings Council in the 1990’s. Since then council has made various improvements to the site, including upgraded toilet facilities, improved road access, sealed car parking area and bollards to exclude vehicular access to certain parts of the reserve.

Liam Bulley, Acting Infrastructure Director for Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and Manager Recreation and Buildings, told the Wauchope Gazette that the council was in the process of reviewing the management model for Ellenborough Reserve. However, she said there was no intention to close the reserve to camping at this stage.

“Council will certainly look at improved signage, and make it clear which parts of the reserve are open to camping,” she said. “Council is also in the process of deciding future management of Ellenborough Reserve, and as part of that process it will look at the possibility of re-opening sections of the reserve fenced off in previous years … there is certainly a role for council in policing the reserve ordinances.”

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