The issue of free camping at the Newey has stirred the community with a packed gallery at last week’s ordinary meeting of Cobar Shire Council.
Cr Julie Payne, whose motion prompted the discussion on the matter, admitted that while her motion may not have originally been correctly worded, her use of “shock and awe” tactics did have the desired effect.
Cr Payne’s original motion to the March Ordinary Council meeting on Thursday called for all camping at the Newey Reservoir area to cease until council had devised a masterplan to regulate free camping, water activities, infrastructure, environmental factors and traffic flow for the area.
After much discussion, Mayor Lilliane Brady called for an amendment to Cr Payne’s motion (which was supported by Cr Payne) which would see council produce a masterplan on the use of the Newey area within three months and signage erected restricting parking on the walking track and around the barbecue area.
The motion did not call for a cessation of camping in the area and was supported by all councillors.
The full gallery of interested residents for last week’s meeting was prompted by Cr Payne’s original motion, along with a letter to the editor from local business woman Ruth Mullins (published in last week’s edition of The Cobar Weekly) opposing the cessation
of free camping on the grounds that it
would have a detrimental affect on local businesses.
Prior to Cr Payne’s motion being tabled for discussion local resident Jill Weaving was granted a public address session where she spoke in favour of free camping and tourism in Cobar.
“Free camping at the Newey has been an ongoing problem for years,” Mrs Weaving said in her opening address.
She said the Newey area currently has a four star rating with the Wikicamps camping app
and she would like to see that high status remain.
“It’s a gold mine down there,” she said.
“These people don’t need to go to caravan parks, they don’t want to go to a caravan park.”
She said while in town the free campers are spending a lot of money in local businesses on food, fuel and gifts.
“We need to encourage them to come to Cobar, we need tourism in our town,” Mrs Weaving said.
Cr Payne said she was not against free camping.
“I have a problem that there are no regulations for free camping at the Newey,” she said.
“I know people think that it’s a personal agenda for me, but I represent a group of people that use that area.”
Cr Payne said she had written to council last May regarding her concerns that free camping was getting out of hand at the Newey however to date no action had been taken by council to regulate usage of the Newey area.
Cr Payne also apologised to local businesses saying she did not realise that so many businesses in town were reliant on free campers.
The gallery applauded council’s decision to amend the motion which should see immediate steps taken to regulate use of the area.