Rangers in full force ahead of expected Easter influx

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Shire rangers will be out in force across the region this long weekend.
Camera IconShire rangers will be out in force across the region this long weekend. Credit: Media - Shire of Augusta Margaret River

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River rangers would be out in force across the Easter break as the region braces for great weather and an influx of visitors.

“Our rangers will be working across the weekend and public holidays, starting early, and finishing late at night to enforce rules and issue infringements,” a Shire spokesperson said.

“In addition to morning patrols, our rangers visit high-profile sites every afternoon to let travellers know it is illegal to stay overnight.

“This includes popular coastal areas as well as sites such as the Barret Street Weir.”

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The Shire came in for flak in February after a group of local teenagers were fined for illegal camping as part of post-high school ball celebrations at Gracetown.

While those fines were immediately withdrawn, parents and residents blasted the local government for not doing enough to address a surge in backpackers and van-based travellers clogging up popular spots and camping illegally during the summer.

While the Shire did not initially commit to investigating an overflow-type facility to provide basic amenities for travellers, the Times understands the local government is investigating the concept and could engage a consultant to sketch a feasible plan.

“Long-term, addressing illegal camping is a priority,” the Shire said.

“Over winter, we’ll be exploring all possible solutions. We want to thoroughly research the issue, because while we recognise there is a problem, we know not all illegal campers are the same.”

The Shire said it would lobby for external funding for the project.

The Augusta-Margaret River Shire said the volume of travellers put pressure on facilities and increased incidents of illegal camping, but it was a complex issue.

“Some are free campers with no interest in paying for accommodation, while others are seasonal workers providing vital support to our hospitality and viticulture industries, unable to secure accommodation,” they said.

“Additionally, there are some people who’ve been impacted by the rental and cost-of-living crisis.”

The City of Busselton told the Times it had also seen a rise in illegal camping infringements, but the situation was complicated by the housing crisis and a “significant increase” in residents sleeping rough or living in vehicles.

“For the most part, the increase can be attributed to people who are impacted by the current housing availability and affordability situation,” community planning director Gary Barbour said.

In February, residents called for an overflow facility to be introduced amid concerns travellers were camping with impunity at spots including Barrett Street and the Margaret River BMX Club.

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