I am concerned about Councils' limited power to prevent backpackers from selling their vehicles and camping on public roads.
Local Government's legal power to take action was removed by the State Government in 1993. I have written to the Minister for Roads and the Minister for Local Government asking that they return this power to Councils across NSW.
Currently, Councils can put up notices to prohibit activities which can or can't take place in areas such as parks or community land. In our parks for example, there are signs which prohibit camping, driving vehicles and littering. Under the 1993 Local Government Act, Council has no power to prohibit these activities if they relate to the "driving, parking or use of any vehicleâ€¦" on a road or road related area.
Our rangers issued 3000 fines last year in Victoria Street Potts Point, where backpackers congregate, and began a tow-away operation in late August 2010, with 19 backpacker vehicles towed after repeatedly overstaying the parking time limit.
Fifteen of the 19 vehicles have been returned to their owners, but only after the payment of between $400 and $600 each in fees and impounding charges. While these fees and charges have been effective in discouraging backpackers parking their vehicles for longer than allowed, under current legislation there is nothing to stop them moving their vehicles to another part of the street.
Council rangers and Police are conducting operations over the coming months looking at the roadworthiness of the vehicles.