Residents and business operators in Victoria Street, Potts Point and Brougham Street, Woolloomooloo remain concerned about the large number of overseas visitors selling campervans in this precinct. Up to 35 vehicles are regularly parked and offered for sale in Victoria Street every day, preventing access to parking for residents, business operators and other visitors. Residents and businesses report amenity impacts like antisocial behaviour, excessive rubbish, and noise from visitors gathering near their vehicles. They tell me that vehicle occupants also cook food, bathe and wash dishes in the street. Police and council rangers impose parking fines and vehicle defect notices; however, officers report that vehicles are generally registered and parked legally. Those in charge of the vehicles stay close by and warn each other when ranger patrols are underway and move their vehicles to evade parking infringements.
The City of Sydney has used powers under the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Regulation to tow away vehicles on Victoria and Brougham streets that contravene the law, but most vehicles are parked legally. While council has towed 28 campervans to date, the problem continues with many campervans legally able to be offered for sale on the street. On average, council rangers spend 80 hours per week, two full-time rangers, patrolling Victoria and Brougham streets and checking every parked vehicle. Joint council and Kings Cross police patrols target defective vehicles in the area, with defects ranging from noisy exhausts to bald tyres. While residents report that this action has seen a reduction in vehicles overstaying time limits, they continue to raise concerns that the number of vehicles for sale and associated amenity impacts are high and significant.
Significant ranger and police resources are being directed to ineffective enforcement operations but have not been able to resolve the concern. This level of enforcement cannot be maintained over the long term. While councils have powers to restrict activities on "community land" such as parks and enclosed lands, enabling some affected councils to move vans on, councils have no power to take action against people selling vehicles on public roads. Ordinance 66 of the now repealed 1991 Local Government Act enabled the City of Sydney to ban offering vehicles for sale on Victoria Street, Kings Cross; however, this power was removed when the Act was replaced in 1993, leaving council without power to address this concern.
Section 632 (2A) (b) of the Local Government Act 1993 prevents councils from prohibiting the taking of a vehicle into, or the driving, parking or use of a vehicle on, a public road. City of Sydney officers advise that a note should be added below this section to specify that it does not prevent councils from prohibiting offering a vehicle for sale on a particular road. This would give councils the authority to erect a notice to prohibit the sale of vehicles on roads and enable the City of Sydney to stop backpackers in Victoria and Brougham streets from using the road as a car saleyard, freeing up limited road space for residents, businesses and their visitors.
Backpackers provide a welcome contribution to our tourism industry, to the inner city and the Kings Cross precinct, and many services are provided for these young visitors. However, roads are public places. They should not be commandeered for commercial activities like car sales. I understand that similar problems occur in harbour, coastal and regional areas like Coffs Harbour and Bathurst, where car dealers turn the side of some roads into caryards. I call on the Government for practical action, to amend the Local Government Act to ensure that councils are able to ban the sale of vehicles on roads where this is having a detrimental impact on local community amenity and business.