Irwin camper numbers rise despite vote to scrap free camping

Liam BeattyGeraldton Guardian
Cliff head camp ground.
Camera IconCliff head camp ground. Credit: Shire of Irwin

Three months after the Irwin Shire scrapped free camping after deciding the cost was “untenable”, visitor numbers to its three coastal node locations show an increase in campers.

Councillors voted unanimously at their June ordinary council meeting last year to introduce a $20 fee per vehicle a night after it was revealed the annual cost of the sites was more than $100,000.

At the time, Shire co-ordinator of infrastructure and assets Stacey Pratt-King said ratepayers had been picking up the bill to pay for the service.

In the months since the system was implemented on March 25, the Shire has recorded 1700 entries to the locations, with campers staying about 2500 nights.

At the June 22 council meeting, Shire development manager Brendan Jeans told the council the three-month results showed an increased amount of camping.

“There’s been a positive response from visitors to the new system,” he said.

The camping sites were built with funding from Royalties for Regions in 2015 and were the only sites to offer free camping along Indian Ocean Drive.

In a first for the Mid West, the Shire of Irwin has introduced a voucher system offering 10 free camping nights to ratepayers each year.

At the June meeting, councillors also voted unanimously to extend the ban on camping at Seven Mile Beach indefinitely because of the environmental damage caused by campers.

The site only allowed self-contained vehicles previously, but the Shire was told camping visitors had used it extensively, leading to waste problems and vegetation damage.

Shire chief executive Shane Ivers previously said it could cost up to $150,000 to make the site suitable for reopening, and the Shire would look into the possibility when the budget allowed.

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