Bracknell community speak out against free camping ban

RELAXED: Meander Valley Council have had to enforce a free camping ban in the region. Picture: file
RELAXED: Meander Valley Council have had to enforce a free camping ban in the region. Picture: file

Free camping at the Bracknell River Reserve is the third area in the Meander Valley region to be banned. 

Despite the community and the council recognising the benefits to the area.

In a letter written to Meander Valley councillor Ian Mackenzie, long-term residents Sharmane and Stephen Jones expressed their concern about free camping being banned. 

“This area has been utilised for years and not only are the campers a welcome addition to our town and municipality … they also are a deterrent to vandalism,” the letter said. 

“There has always been campers pulling in along the river edge and staying a night or two before moving.

“The campers have been a deterrent to any major vandalism to happen within the area, so this would have to be a positive for the Meander Valley Council.” 

The letter said the community would like to see the campers still be allowed to stay overnight in the municipality. 

That calls come after the council as a result of a formal complaint to Council that free camping is currently in conflict with the planning scheme.

At Tuesday’s meeting Cr Mackenzie will present a motion to assess the feasibility of providing camping and overnight stays at the Bracknell Recreation Ground. 

“The reason I’m putting it forward is because the Economic Regulator has basically told us to stop all free camping,” Cr Mackenzie said. 

“The community was quite supportive of the campers. The [town’s] hotel and shop do a bit of trade [from them].” 

Cr Mackenzie said campers have been staying at the reserve for more than 20 years, but that was officially shut down on Thursday. 

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Meander Valley mayor Craig Perkins said he was concerned because the regulation is a statewide issue, but it is not being patrolled in some other municipalities. 

Cr Perkins said the scheme says camping is allowed until someone complains about it. 

“We received a complaint regarding the overnight camping on public grounds. That triggered our requirement to have to cease allowing that activity,” he said. 

“… and if we don’t we could be found to be in breach and the council will get fined. The only action that we had once that complaint was made was to make it stop happening.”

Cr Perkins said because the regulation was not being patrolled in other municipalities it meant tourists would bypass the Meander Valley region all together. 

“We were happy to recognise the overnight stays in the Westbury, Deloraine and Bracknell areas and that is the position of council.”

The Economic Regulator was contacted for comment.