Comment: Free Camping

Submitted: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 12:27
ThreadID: 102149 Views:1820 Replies:4 FollowUps:3
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There are a number of other issues involved here. Whilst it is easy to get caught up in issues relating to lost income for camp sites, etc. there are some other very important reasons why landowners (councils or private individuals) don't like people camping "just anywhere". For example, whilst I am sure that everyone here takes full responsibility for their own actions, we live in a very letigious society. No landowner wants to be sued because somebody had an accident on their land. As an extension of this, the camper has no idea about the potential hazards lurking on or around a nice looking piece of ground.
Whilst the original article was concerned largely with crown land, let me give a personal example. I am a landowner, with both council and crown roads running through my property. I have leases on the crown roads, so they are treated as part of my farm and are not fenced. In fact like many other rural landowners I use cattle grids rather than fences to contain livestock and so have paddocks that are not fenced off from the (dirt) roads. Every now and then, somebody decides that it is OK to set up their camper/tent/caravan/motorhome on my land. I do not know if they think they are on crown land, or if they simply believe that if it's not fenced then nobody owns it. None has ever asked me first, even though my house is clearly visible from most of my property. The behaviour of my "guests" has mostly been OK (only a couple have decided that a camp fire was a good idea) and most have taken their rubbish with them. However what would happen if a bull had decided that it didn't like them being there and battered them or their equipment, or simply scatched an itch on their $200,000 motorhome? Or if that particular area had just been sprayed with herbicide or insecticide? They have no knowledge of what the possible risks are! Whilst I do not believe that any still exist on my land, at one time there were a large number of gold mining shafts left from the 19th century gold rush that were quite capable of swallowing a man on a horse - or a campervan! It is also of concern that people pick up weed seeds and spread them from place to place on their shoes and equipment - this probably doesn't even occur to most city dwellers, but it is a major problem.
Most of the same problems exist on council owned land and unoccupied crown land.
So, whilst as a camper I can understand the frustration of people watching "their" countryside being taken away, as a landowner I can understand the problems from the other side. Councils, being seen by lawyers as a prime target for law suits, must be even more concerned!
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Reply By: Member - KYLE S - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 14:37

Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 14:37
Hello,
Well written and I must admit you raised issues I had not given a thought.
It reminds me of a time 45 odd years ago when I was cutting fire breaks around the boundary fence. As you would know this involved opening and closing gates.
On opening the big gate where the bull were fenced from the cows I took the time to answer a call of nature. On turning around there was a ton or so of bull between me and the tractor. He wasn't happy as he was down snorting sand and looking at me in a most "evil"way. He was probably going to get even for me having replaced his nose ring a couple of days previous. My course of action (after answering another call of nature induced by the situation.) was to go into his paddock, close the gate behind me, walk in a big arc and eventually get back to the tractor by keeping the tractor between me and the bull.
My point being that imagine a person unfamiliar with stock getting into a situation with a bull or in fact any ornery animal.
Kyle
AnswerID: 510800

Follow Up By: Robyn R4 - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 20:18

Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 20:18
I live on the coast and, while hubby and I love the idea of free camping, we are also very aware of the other side of things.
There are signs along the coastal strip here that threaten big fines but obviously the people who camp there know that the rangers are blind and have no sense of smell (at least one ranger lives in town but amazingly never sees the campers or smells the fires!)
The rangers obviously never visit the little "nooks" in between the trees to see the rubbish- hubby went in there the other day and said it was putrid.
Thanks for nothing to all who help to slowly destroy my pretty little strip of coastline.
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Reply By: Drysdale River Station - Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 08:51

Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 08:51
Well put Warb, you have covered some of the problems from the landholders point of view. Insurance / being sued is definitely an issue. I will only discuss our area as I know nothing about laws elsewhere. People used to free camp all along the dirt roads in the North Kimberley, this was mostly turned a blind eye to mainly for two reasons. (1) the numbers were not that high (2) in times long gone by most people seemed to do the right things re fire, toilet etc.
Times have changed, the numbers are now massive and to be blunt many free campers are thoughtless pigs. They leave not only unburied fecal matter & toilet paper but also rubbish bags, lose cans, rip tags, bottle tops, broken bottles etc etc. Then to top it off they get in their car and take off without putting out their camp fire.
Many of you will get up in arms and say ' I don't do that stuff ' well perhaps YOU don't but believe me LOTS of others do all those things.
Many of the riverside camps are full of nasty weeds, these are picked up on tents, swags etc and taken to the next camp spot and if a bush one this just spreads the weeds around the stations, if a paying one this makes massive work for the campground owner to pull and spray the weeds every wet season.
The other problem is everyone wants their own bit of space, so they go another 50m past the other campers and so on and so on. Before you know it a big area is overtaken and lots of wheel tracks are made, then along comes the yearly floods and it's those wheel tracks with no grass remaining that just wash away and rip up the creek edges.
The next point is while the land may be unfenced it does belong to someone, even pastoral leases do have private property rights. Someone is paying rent ( pastoral rent has gone up massively in recent years) on the land you are camping on. In reality you have no right to be on it without permission, I wonder how you would feel if it was you paying rent on a house or any land and people free camped in or on it, without your permission? And to top it off they left an erosion problem and left uncovered poo and rubbish and a dangerous burning fire. Even people that ' put out ' their fires often only half do the job, the log is left smoldering and it just takes time and a wind and it flares up again.
Some of the creek crossings you need gumboots to walk around by the end of the season, it's a health hazard.
It can be said I have a private agenda in saying all this because we do offer a camp ground. A legal one which the local shire makes us pay to have and makes us put in full facilities including expensive disabled facilities. Then there is insurance etc to pay.
This is true I do have a vested interest but it's even more true that I hate to see what is happening to all the river & creek crossings and even gravel pits and all places that people free camp. All on land we locals pay rent on.
I can honestly see it from the campers point of view, nothing nicer than a private camp in the bush, but please when you are discussing your ' rights ' just try to also see it from the locals and the landholders point of view and do consider their rights and the fact these free camps are now making a hell of a big mess.
cheers, Anne




Drysdale River Station

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Follow Up By: Cheeky1 - Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 10:40

Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 10:40
Anne, both you and Warb have given me a perspective that I was totally oblivious to and I thank you for that. However, I enjoy free camping and will continue to do it - armed with the information that you guys have given. I've paid a lot of money for my gear to be able to go into secluded places and be self sufficient. I am very careful to make sure that I leave no trace after I've gone though. There are a lots of people just like me. The problem is, the ones that aren't and they're the ones that are spoiling it for the rest of us. They are the ones that you are forming your opinion from. As I've stated in a couple of other threads, there needs to be more focus from the relevant authorities (DEC, councils,etc) to change the culture through education and supplying more amenties and dump points. People such as yourself will always get campers utilising your camp ground. I myself still use paid camp grounds and caravan parks. Particularly ones that offer campers a "camping experience" like yours and a couple of others out there on the GRR. I would much prefer to camp somwhere like Miners Pool than in the bush because you get the best of both worlds. But if I had the choice of camping in the bush, or going into a caravan park full of roudy people, I know which one I will take. Both sides of this debate need to work together to change the culture of camping in Australia - to educate the "thoughtless pigs" as you put it - to make them see that it's not acceptable to go bush, or even paid camp grounds, and abuse the environment.
Ray
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Reply By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 14:31

Monday, May 13, 2013 at 14:31
Hullo Warb and Anne

Having worked on properties [many years ago, I might add :-)], I totally understand your concerns and frustrations. While many campers do take care and clean up their site before leaving, etc, there is unfortunately a significant percentage who don't.

The issue here is one of values - do you respect another person's property; do you take the time to find out what is the correct thing to do when in the bush [don't camp near watering places, leave gates how you find them, keep your dogs under control, contact the property owner beforehand where possible, don't use their tracks in the wet, etc]; do you behave in a courteous manner towards others [campers and road users] and so on.

OR

Do you behave with a sense of entitlement; I'm all right Jack; I won't be back so I don't care how I leave the place; I'm in a hurry so I will go the speed I please [and too bad if I break your windscreen/headlight or run you off the road]; it's too much trouble to dig a hole and bury my poo; I'll camp right where I want to and have the music as loud as I want it; etc

Unfortunately, education alone will not change the behaviour of this latter group :-( Our values - what is right and wrong, acceptable and not acceptable - are learnt from our parents and the society we grew up in while we were young and are mostly embedded below our awareness. It takes a major psychological event - where we are fully confronted with the consequences of our behaviour and underlying values - to start the process of change. And for many of the people in the second group, being picked up by the authorities is worn like a "badge of honour", not as a chance to review their actions and the negative impact on the broader community.


Andrew
AnswerID: 510969

Follow Up By: Warb - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 15:01

Monday, May 13, 2013 at 15:01
It's funny you should post that, because it was exactly what I was think on Sunday afternoon!

As I drove through Capertee, a green/blue 4WD towing a trailer with a yellow Yamaha quad bike pulled out of the service station in front of me. It was one of several such rigs pulled up in or around the service station. He then stopped, blocking the road, to talk to his mate who was parked just in front. When a few cars had been forced to stop behind him (or more likely when he had finished his conversation) he started moving again. About 200m further up the road, he opened his window and threw out a chip wrapper........

What went through my mind? Well, clearly he doesn't give a rats bottom about littering the road. He MUST "know" that it is wrong, so education will not change anything. I also must assume that he had been camping (all the vehicles in that convoy were set up for such) and that whatever rubbish he generated had been left wherever if fell - if he felt it was OK to drop chip wrappers on the road why would he feel different about a campsite? As he was on his way home at this point (heading towards Sydney) I must assume that this was not his first offence, which means that his passenger hadn't complained and that therefore they too feel that such behaviour is OK. Unfortunately, having now judged his regard to the law and the environment, I must also assume that whatever unfortunate area he had been staying is is probably now destroyed by, rubbish and quad/motorcycle riding.

Now I could be wrong, and perhaps his hand came out of the window in a vain attempt to catch an escaped chip wrapper, after a few days of eco-camping and drawing wild flowers that he spotted from his quad bike at walking pace. But I doubt it!
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FollowupID: 789076

Reply By: Croozerute - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 13:10

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 13:10
This is an excellent thread that should be read by all on this site and other related sites.
Very well put by all involved.

Cheers
Al
AnswerID: 511094

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