Cobar Shire Councillors have deferred discussions on the Draft Land Use Master Plan for the Newey until their next meeting.
Councillors were only presented with the draft master plan, written by council’s director of planning and environmental services Garry Ryman, last Wednesday—one day prior to the June Ordinary Council Meeting.
Many councillors said they had not had sufficient time to study the 101 page document and requested more time to “digest it”.
At the meeting Cr Yench called for the Newey to be closed down immediately.
“It’s pointed out in this report that it [camping] is illegal,” he said.
The plan highlights that the use of the Newey for the purpose of a camping ground (and/or caravan park) is a prohibited land use under the Cobar Local Environmental Plan 2012.
“We need to put gates on it and stop all free camping at the Newey,” Cr Yench said.
“We’ve got to be legal, we can’t be breaking the law.”
Cr Yench called for a motion for a gate to be installed at the Newey entrance roadway immediately in order to cease all free camping and that as a temporary alternative council opens up Ward Oval for free campers to use.
However Cr Tracey Kings questioned Cr Yench’s suggestion, asking how members of the public would access the Newey for recreation purposes if it were closed off to vehicles.
Cr Yench suggested the area could alternatively be patrolled by a council staff member.
Cr Janine Lea-Barrett asked about the likelihood that council could be prosecuted if they did nothing.
Cr Peter Abbott said he personally did not believe that it was illegal.
He said he had read an 11 page dissertation from council’s lawyers on the matter three years ago and, from what he could ascertain, council was not breaking the law.
“The reality for us is that this has been going on for some time,” Cr Abbott said.
Cr Yench’s motion and further discussion on the matter was deferred to council’s July meeting.