Cobar Shire Council’s announcement of a ban on free camping at the Newey has prompted strong community backlash.
Council’s general manager Peter Vlatko publically announced the ‘no camping until further notice’ rule last week after receiving a directive from the NSW Department of Industry—Crown Lands and Water.
Local resident Jill Weaving, who is a passionate advocate for free camping, called Mr Vlatko last Tuesday (before he made a public announcement) to clarify a rumour that camping was to be banned at the Newey.
Mrs Weaving said she received a full explanation from Mr Vlatko and did not blame him for his actions, saying she could understand the position he was in and the course of action he was required to take.
Mrs Weaving was however concerned of the flow-on effect the loss of free camping visitors to the town would have.
“Once we lose these people they have gone,” Mrs Weaving said.
When The Cobar Weekly released the ‘No Camping’ news via our Facebook page on Thursday, we received a large volume of comments from residents, business people and campers venting their anger at the move.
Many readers said that stopping free camping, which is a rapidly growing industry, will deter a large number of visitors from coming to Cobar.
“This will hurt every business in town,” Country Simplicity shop owner Jacqui Hudleston wrote in her post.
Another shop owner, Trudy Rogers, wrote: “This has already made it to one of the social media sites. Bad press for Cobar. They are already commenting they’ll just bypass us.”
Mrs Weaving said she had spoken to a number of concerned local shop owners with one business owner saying “she will put her shop up for sale or close the doors”.
Another owner told Mrs Weaving they estimated they received 65 per cent of their income from free campers while another said their figure was more like 85 per cent.
Karen Walsh commented on our post: “Sad news for the retailers and tourism but Council has always known camping is illegal on Crown Land. It should have been handled better in the first place. I’m sure the ratepayers would not like to pay any fines because the Council ignores the law.”
Bethany Thomas pointed out council’s notice “didn’t say it’s permanent”.
“Hopefully this “Draft management plan” doesn’t take too long and they’re allowed back,” she said.