Campers could soon be allowed to return to the Newey after councillors decided last week to immediately adopt a Plan of Management for the reserve.
Councillors discussed a report on the management options for the Newey Reserve, prepared by Eco Logical Australia, at last week’s Ordinary Council Meeting.
Council’s general manager Peter Vlatko said that as the Newey had been a “significant issue for our community” it was proposed that council should go out and engage with the community on how they would like to see the Newey Reserve managed, rather than just offer the “normal” 28 day consultation period.
A report to last week’s meeting also suggested the consultation be facilitated by an independent person.
“Given the journey that we’ve had, we believe this is an important opportunity to listen to our community,” Mr Vlatko told councillors.
Cr Jarrod Marsden called for the Newey Plan of Management (POM) to be implemented immediately.
The majority of councillors agreed and voted 9-2 for Cr Marsden’s motion.
He called for the POM to include the option to allow parking of self-contained recreation vehicles in delineated parking bays around the reserve where access is currently available.
Day use and recreational activities would co-mingle with the parking bays.
“This has dragged out far too long,” Cr Marsden said after some discussion on the matter.
“If the votes within this room had of been close, if it had of been 7-5 or if the mayor had to use her power to get a motion passed or declined or whatever, if the votes had of been close then I would agree to go out and spend money and do the consultation.”
He said every time the matter has been raised the “vast majority” of councillors have been in favour of allowing camping at the Newey.
“It’s a delaying tactic as far as I’m concerned,” Cr Marsden said.
Cr Chris Lehmann joined Cr Marsden in calling for immediate action.
“We’ve all done our consultation of the community over the last 12 months-two years,” Cr Lehmann said.
“The community wants the free camping, there’s no debate on that. There’s a small amount of them that don’t—that’s fine.
“This has come to this council so many times, it has been knocked down and shut down with the land issue but we’ve sorted that out.
“At the end of the day this is going to happen,” Cr Lehmann said.
Cr Julie Payne, who has been proactively advocating for the free camping ban, questioned the Newey Reserve Management Options report.
Cr Payne said while the planning proposal to add a camping ground has been approved by the Minister, council would still have ongoing responsibility of care and control and management of the reserve.
“This document states that it shouldn’t be used as the final Plan of Management as there are still many steps to address before it is submitted for approval and I appreciate that you’ll be getting a consultant to consult with the community,” Cr Payne said.
“It does appear in this document that the key issue seems to be the implementation of free camping at the Newey,” Cr Payne said.
“I don’t understand why we’re so hell bent on pandering to a certain demographic of persons who don’t want to pay their way.
“We should be looking at ways to reduce vehicular access to the Newey rather than encouraging more traffic.
“The Newey should be our jewel in the crown,” she said.
Cr Payne questioned why other issues such as: securing the Newey’s water; extending the walking track and cycling track; installing more picnic tables and outdoor gym stations; permitting swimming; permitting alcohol consumption; access for motorised and non-motorised water craft; and further promotion of the benefits of exercise, both mental and physical, to encourage more users to the area were not also included in the document.
“During the past 14 months, Newey users, including myself, have thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity and natural ambience of the Newey without campers and commercialism,” she said.
Cr Payne said she was heartened to see
a number of councils in Queensland (and
also recently in Orange), rejecting implementing free camping sites on public recreation areas.
“I’m not a supporter of free camping.
“I fully support the conventional tourists who use the hotels, motels, caravan parks, relatives and friends visits and feel this demographic of paying customers contribute greatly to Cobar’s economy and should enjoy the same status as free campers,” Cr Payne said.