Cobar Shire Council has been forced to curtail camping at the Newey following a directive last week from the NSW Department of Industry—Crown Lands and Water.
Council’s general manager Peter Vlatko said he had no choice in the matter which will now see all camping banned at the Newey recreation area until further notice.
Free camping at the Newey has been a bone of contention among councillors and members of the community for many years and the matter escalated last week after word leaked that council would be putting up ‘No Camping’ signs at the Newey.
Mr Vlatko told The Cobar Weekly he had advised councillors at Council’s Ordinary Meeting on February 22 of the directive he had received from the Crown Lands and Water office.
He said that Council, as a Trust Manager, had been advised (and had acknowledged) that their support of unauthorised free camping at the Newey Reserve was in breach of the Crown Lands Act 1998 and Section 68 of the Local Government Act 1993.
He said council had to take action and put up ‘No camping until further notice’ signs.
Mr Vlatko said he received a number of calls from travellers last week checking to see if the Newey is still open to free campers.
“The signs are not up yet,” Mr Vlatko said on Friday morning.
They have however been ordered and will be erected in the next few weeks.
“We’ve got no problem with free camping,” Mr Vlatko told The Cobar Weekly.
“I do know they are spending money in town and we are encouraging them to still come to Cobar.”
He said the ‘No Camping’ rule was a temporary measure and would be sorted once a plan of management of the Newey was complete.
“We haven’t killed it,” Mr Vlatko said of free camping within the Cobar Shire.
He said visitors will continue to be welcomed to Cobar and will be allowed to make use of permitted rest areas within the shire for the purposes of free camping.
“They can rest and stop anywhere it’s legal.”
Mr Vlatko told councillors that “nobody has won,” the battle going on between councillors over the matter.
“We are going to sort it out and we’ll do everything as quickly as possible.”
He estimated the Newey Management Plan could realistically be completed within 2-3 months.
“We’re working hard to get a consultant out here to do this.”
He said council will also need to allow a 28 day public consultation period for feedback from the community on the plan.
The plan then needs to go to a council meeting for discussion and adoption. The whole process could take up to five months.
“We’re going to get it right for once and all,” Mr Vlatko said.