GREY AREA: An unofficial camp ground has taken shape in the Rails Car Park in Byron Bay with Van Packers taking advantage of the fact the land is State Rail owned and administered by John Holland and currently beyond the control of Byron Council. There are now several dumped cars that are being used as dwellings.
GREY AREA: An unofficial camp ground has taken shape in the Rails Car Park in Byron Bay with Van Packers taking advantage of the fact the land is State Rail owned and administered by John Holland and currently beyond the control of Byron Council. There are now several dumped cars that are being used as dwellings. Christian Morrow

Sun soon to set on Rails “shanty town”

THE DAYS of free camping in the “grey area” of the Rails Car Park may be coming to an end with Byron Shire Council in negotiation with the area’s caretakers, John Holland, to impose parking restrictions.

A spokesman for Transport for NSW said, “Transport for NSW (TfNSW), along with their contractor John Holland Rail (JHR), are working closely with Byron Shire Council to improve access and amenity at the rail car park in Byron Bay.

"Time limited parking zones will be introduced in certain sections of the car park in the near future, with TfNSW entering into an agreement with Council that will enable Council to enforce parking zones in this area. 

"Work is also planned in the latter half of 2016, to improve drainage and the surface of the car park, as well as installing metered parking. This may require a short term closure of the car park, however JHR will ensure the community is notified well in advance of the work.

"It is anticipated that these improvements, combined with the agreement with Council, will ensure reasonable, fair and safe use of the car park in the future for residents and visitors alike."

Up to forty van packers per night have been using the space because it is beyond the reach of council parking and camping restrictions and patrols.

Locals have been expressing concern about the issue and anger toward the illegal campers after we posted pictures on our Byron Shire News Facebook page which then spread across to the Voice of Byron (VOB) Facebook page.

Two days ago Mayor Simon Richardson wrote on one VOB thread: “(Council is) currently negotiating an enforcement agreement with John Holland and we have drafted an agreement which they are currently considering.

“Soon (John Holland) will, at their cost, be upgrading and re-sealing the car-park so that it will be suitable for the introduction of pay parking- the administration of PP will help to alleviate the camping particularly between 9am and 6pm.

“The reconstruction of the car park will also disrupt the camping practices currently going on. Meanwhile we are monitoring the situation though with a degree of frustration given that we have no statutory authority over the site.”

Van packers BSN has spoken to said it was common knowledge amongst travellers the Rails car park was a free place to camp and most could see nothing wrong with setting up there over night.

There are also three abandoned cars being used as overnight accommodation.

Some locals have dubbed the carpark Byron Bay’s very own “shanty town” with the van packers setting up tables, chairs other furniture at night and in the morning to cook and eat meals.

The campers utilise toilet and bathroom facilities in surrounding local businesses as well as the overstretched council facilities in the nearby Railway Park.

Locals also complained of seeing rubbish strewn around the carpark and of the stench of urine with campers seen urinating straight on the ground in the carpark itself.

David Pettifer wrote, “I walk through the rails car park every morning and there have been the same vans there for weeks, I really don't enjoy sharing the ablutions, breakfasts and party remains of back packers on my way to work.”

Some Byron Bay locals are more Laissez Fair about the campers believing the town should cut the young travellers a break.

Patrick Gray wrote: “I've gotta say, I don't quite get the panic over this either. It's probably something to be addressed, but why does it make people so angry? I've lived in Byron for 12 years now, I own a house and I pay my rates... but I just can't bring myself to go ape shit over a few young people in camper vans having a good time.”

Meanwhile there are cheap camping option available all around Byron Bay including:

At Red Devil Fields, 2.5 kms South of the Byron CBD, where there are primitive camping sites available for $15/person per night. This gives you access to toilets, showers and a camp kitchen. Stays are limited to one week during the footy season. Contact: 0402937116.

At the first Sun Caravan Park, right on the Byron Bay beach front, overnight rates start at $50 per night for a powered site for two people. For that you get access to toilets, showers, a laundry and a camp kitchen as well as limited access to WI-FI. Contact: 66856544


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