‘About to put down a slab’: Illegal camper fight
AN EXODUS of illegal campers at Ellis Beach has been short-lived with a semipermanent seaside shanty drawing a wave of complaints from residents.
Concerns over unlawful campers living, fighting and defecating at the pristine site came to a head this year when the Department of Transport and Main Roads promised to tighten its controls.
The action followed years of frustrating back-and-forth negotiations between the state government, Cairns Regional Council and Queensland Police Service about who, if anyone, was responsible for enforcing anti-camping laws along state highways.
The department eventually agreed to erect no-camping signs at Ellis Beach and Buchan Point, which appeared to lead to a temporary evacuation which lasted a couple of months.
Numbers of tent and caravan dwellers are still significantly down, but Division 9 Cairns regional councillor Brett Olds said complaints were coming thick and fast about the site's newest resident - who has been embedded for several months.
Her campsite features a tent, a lean-to fashioned from branches and tarps, and an extensive outdoor kitchen and living area sprawled across the sand.
"It looks like she's about to put down a slab," Mr Olds said.
"I talked to Main Roads about it a month ago and said it was great that they changed the legislation, but why don't they get the police to enforce it? The police are there but they won't ask for their help - they said they were training officers to handle it themselves.
"It's just illogical."
Mr Olds said police would be able to direct campers to assistance to help them get out of difficult situations - but the department first needed to write to QPS to request its co-operation.
Legislation was recently amended to clarify the rules for rest area use and camping within the state-controlled road reserve.
Motorists can use rest areas for 24 hours in order to fight fatigue but long-term camping is prohibited.
The maximum fine is 20 penalty units or $2669, or $266 for on-the-spot fines issued by authorised officers.
However, at the time the department said its focus was "on education and improved behaviour rather than financial penalties" and it was "continuing to work with QPS around enforcement" of the laws.
"Our approach to enforcement will involve education, awareness and formal warnings, with fines as a last resort," it said.
The department has been asked for comment on whether any measures would be taken to move on the new Ellis Beach camper.
Originally published as 'About to put down a slab': Illegal camper fight hits Cairns coast