An increase in caravan and camper travellers to Cobar is reflective of the state’s increase in registrations of caravans and the nights spent in caravan accommodation however some locals believe ‘free camping’ at the Newey is getting out of hand.
Local resident Julie Payne, who lives near the Newey and is a regular user of the area, believes we should regulate the number and type of ‘free campers’ at the Newey.
Mrs Payne said she was prompted to write to council’s general manager some months ago with her concerns about the matter.
“Some evenings there are in excess of 20 vans parked at the Newey,” Mrs Payne said.
“Quite often cyclists and path users have to dodge waste water puddles, solar panels, washing lines extended over the path, power cords, dogs tied to vans, fire residue, braziers, shower cubicles and even campers themselves who set their chairs up on the track and show no care or respect for the locals.
“Why should those wanting to exercise have to pass through a ‘caravan park’?”
She said the Newey was a calm relaxing place to visit but of late it has been invaded by a “barricade of bumper to bumper caravans or tents which detract from the idyllic rural atmosphere”.
“Yes I have to agree with some of these ‘free campers’ that the Newey is a “lovely spot” but I feel the attraction of the Newey is highly compromised by the invasion of the ‘free campers’. The only ones to benefit from the ‘free’ description are the ‘free campers’.
“Who do you think pays for the maintenance of these free sites? Things like cleaning the toilets, supplying toilet paper, fresh water, emptying the bins, mowing and more recently the policing of the vans to comply with the non disposal of waste water, lighting of fires and where to and not to park—the ratepayer of course!”
She said it is the lack of respect for other Newey users that prompted her to call for more regulation of the area such as: designated areas; limiting the number of vans; overnight camping only; no tents; vans to be wholly self contained; and good clear signage.
Cobar’s Tourism Manager John Martin admitted that ‘free camping’ at the Newey is becoming a problem.
He said it is a difficult situation and is an issue that should have been dealt with sooner.
“If the town were to stop the camping at the Newey now, it would be a public relations disaster.
“It needs to be addressed and some guidelines need to be put in place,” Mr Martin said.
He said about 20 per cent of people travelling through Cobar are using the free camping spots at the Newey, the Old Res and the Cornish Rest Stop and this is down from 30 per cent at the beginning of the year.
“I think that if we don’t want free camping at the Newey, then we need to find somewhere else, now. Obviously they can’t all fit in the Cornish rest area,” Mr Martin said.
In regards to putting restrictions in place at the Newey, Mr Martin believes that only campers who have completely self-sufficient vehicles should be allowed to camp. This means that there would not be any fires lit and no grey water let go at the site.
“However, most people are great and respect the area,” Mr Martin said.
“Caravans should not be allowed to park on the walking tracks or in the barbecue area.
“It needs to be managed very carefully.
“Whatever we do there needs to have some thought put into it, and well consulted in the community. It needs a few people to sit down and think it through, talk it through without emotion,” Mr Martin said.
Caravanners Patricia and Dennis Charlton (pictured below), who have been travelling around Australia for the past five months, camped out at the Newey for five days last week in their self-sufficient van.
The couple said they are very mindful of the imprint they leave on their ‘free camping’ spot.
They praised the Newey and said they believed they were very lucky to be visiting at such a green and lush time.
“You don’t get to wake up to a view like this at a caravan park,” Mr Charlton said.
“We only stay at caravan parks when we need to do a big wash and fill up with water.
“Staying at free spots allows us to keep costs down and spend more on attractions and in the towns. If it is too dear at the caravan park then we move on,” Mrs Charlton said.