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Free parking: prime spots provide backpacker haven but locals not impressed

Fancied spot: German backpackers and their vans at Wentworth Park.

Fancied spot: German backpackers and their vans at Wentworth Park. Photo: Ben Rushton

They are as seasonal as cicadas and sunburn, and to some, just as painful. Backpacker vans have descended en masse in Sydney, and managing the influx is an issue not just for beachside councils.

Scores of van travellers have congregated in spots such as Glebe, where the lure of unlimited free parking, warm public showers in Wentworth Park and a place to cook a meal outrivals that of sun, sand and surf.

Francois Leroy said there were only about three vans around Wentworth Park Road when he set up camp a month ago. But there have been as many as 30 as travellers converged on the city over the past week for the New Year celebrations. ''It's crazy,'' the 25-year-old Frenchman said.

The increase has been getting to some of his neighbours, too - the street's bricks-and-mortar residents who complain the backpackers are messy, crowd out public facilities and take up parking spaces. Mr Leroy said one woman took to yelling abusing from her window.

''So I came to her really friendly, 'Madam what's happened, I am here for one month?' '' Mr Leroy said. ''She throw me out water in the face, three times.

''I said 'If you want you can call the ranger or the police'. They come here every two or three days. They are really friendly; they know we clean the place.''

A City of Sydney spokesman said it had fielded a ''small number'' of complaints from Glebe residents, but most of the vans were parked in unrestricted areas.

''Rangers have discussed the issue with local police to develop a joint approach,'' he said.

The campers became such an issue in Kings Cross in 2011 that the council introduced a backpacker car market and banned the sale of parked vehicles in Potts Point.

Competition for rare or sought-after spots in Sydney is such that some backpackers report they are reluctant to move on.

German friends Julien Hebrard, 24, and Max Bodin, 22, said they planned to keep their van in Glebe until they sell it and leave the country in a month. ''I think there is [another popular spot] in Bondi,'' he said. ''This one was the best. It was. [Now] it's too full.''

Waverley Council mayor Sally Betts said roadside camping was not allowed on its streets, and council had installed signs where possible to make people aware of it.

''Waverley Council has received complaints about people camping in streets and our rangers have responded by moving them on,'' Cr Betts said.

In 2011, Randwick Council and police evicted about 45 vans and 100 backpackers who had set up camp at Clovelly. But a Randwick Council spokeswoman said there had been ''very few incidents'' this summer.

Kira Huelsduenker, 19, was part of a group of German school-leavers - a convoy of 18 people - unfazed by the daily abuse they have received for camping in a two-hour zone in Glebe. But if a ranger doesn't move them on, it seems the season eventually will.

''If the weather's bad you can always go somewhere else,'' she said.

Clique

37 comments so far

  • I goto the butchers here and it has progressively gotten worse. I do not agree with the claim that they keep the place clean, there is rubbish all along the street and they leave food under their cars. As you walk past the vans and cars they are mess inside. I can see why residents complain.

    Commenter
    mike
    Date and time
    January 06, 2014, 6:52AM
    • We've paid tens of hundreds of thousands for these homes. We shouldn't have to share this area. Make parking as expensive as renting and it will stop.

      Commenter
      johnBB
      Date and time
      January 06, 2014, 8:20AM
    • Obviously the local polling booths during Local Govt elections don't show enough locals voting for Clover Moore. Moore only cares about suburbs that vote for her. So there is her vision for Glebe.

      Commenter
      enough is enough
      Date and time
      January 06, 2014, 8:57AM
  • Please can we just allow these visitors a small parcel of this great land to park their temporary home and enjoy what some if us take for granted every single day. Obviously the woman who hurls abuse and throws water on these visitors is eager to show the ugly side of Australia.

    Commenter
    Kerry rivers
    Date and time
    January 06, 2014, 7:02AM
    • How about they park outside the front of your place kerry? A constant stream, year after year. Or is that different?

      Commenter
      johnBB
      Date and time
      January 06, 2014, 8:22AM
    • Can some parking be provided? What a terrible impression we're making on these international visitors. I'm sure there's some small area council could offer up free to backpackers. This country is getting so mean.

      Commenter
      Jane
      Date and time
      January 06, 2014, 9:38AM
  • In NZ, every city, even the small ones, have one or two parks set up for campervans, so the campervans can congregate there, recharge, and not take up public space. Why can't Sydney do the same?

    Commenter
    ST
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    January 06, 2014, 7:04AM
    • Simple answer. Because there is no free space. Sydney is Chocker block absolutely completely completely full. Where does it stop? We should do what Singapore does and auction licences for cars. About 100 thousand AUD. That will happen as our population increases. It would stop this problem too.

      Commenter
      johnBB
      Date and time
      January 06, 2014, 8:26AM
    • I think Sydney has these as well. They're called caravan parks and if you google that term, there are plenty of places available. I can understand them spending one or two nights but not longer term.

      Commenter
      stevek
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 06, 2014, 8:53AM
    • umm... because there is no space?

      Commenter
      john douglas
      Location
      rose bay
      Date and time
      January 06, 2014, 8:55AM

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