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Does it get better than this?

31 Mar 2016

Does it get better than this? Image

It’s a real estate agent’s marketing dream – free parking, free WIFI, ablutions, free trams, tranquil water views, a stone’s throw from the centre of the world’s most liveable city as well as a beautiful library and a first class supermarket on the doorstep.

Is it any wonder the world’s backpackers have found a favourite home along North Wharf Rd in Victoria Harbour?

Of course no one is sleeping in their cars.  The laid out bedding and sleeping bags just makes the “parking” experience more pleasant!

For young German backpacker Jan, it’s hard to think of a better place to “park”.

Jan explained that there had been some recent pressure to move the dozens of vans and station wagons out of the area.  He said the toilet had recently been closed and that there had been a note left by a builder that the area was about to be developed.  He also reported that a pair of “rangers” had visited and taken photos and registration numbers, threatening to call police if they were still there next time they visited.

He said some people had moved on but, so far, nothing had happened.  

He and his mate (also named Jan) had actually bought their car at the camp site.  They plan to be there for about another month while their casual job lasts.

And even if they moved on, the word is out there about the joys of Docklands.

The popular smart phone app WikiCamps Australia lists the benefits of North Wharf Rd using iconography that most of us would associate with residential real estate websites.

And it’s not just North Wharf Rd that is attracting backpackers to Docklands.  The state-of-the-art amenities at Ron Barassi Snr Park are an obvious attraction.

Quietly tucked away at the end of Docklands Drive, the area offers prime residential amenity – you can even pitch your tent on the oval.

And, while Docklands has a bunch of “happy campers”, local volunteers and crew of the tall ship Enterprize have been booked by council parking inspectors.

Since fencing was installed across North Wharf Rd recently, volunteers are required to visit the Enterprize office to obtain a swipe card to allow them to open the gate and drive through.

According to Enterprize general manager Michael Womack the all-day parking available is generally occupied by campervans and cars, forcing volunteers to park in “no stopping” zones while they collect a pass, leading to some receiving $152 parking fines from the council.

“Volunteers giving up their time to conduct sailing excursions for primary and secondary excursions do not deserve and cannot afford to be fined $152 for five minutes while they get an access pass while all the ‘legal’ parking is occupied by campervans,” Mr Womack said.

“In addition some of the vehicles along North Wharf Rd appear to have been abandoned and just left, which further reduces available parking spaces.”

At least one volunteer appealed the parking infringement fine received, but the council did not withdraw the fine.

“The ‘no stopping’ area is strictly patrolled and enforcement will continue where ‘no stopping’ applies,” a City of Melbourne spokesperson said.

Places Victoria and City of Melbourne say they are taking steps to move the campers on.

Places Victoria general manager Simon Wilson said: “Places Victoria is working with the City of Melbourne and other stakeholders to tackle the issue of illegal campers in Docklands by increasing security patrols and other security measures.”

“We don’t want the anti-social behaviour by some of these campers to be a deterrent to families using Ron Barassi Snr Park or to create safety issues in these isolated areas.”

A City of Melbourne spokesperson confirmed that council officers had been speaking to occupants of vehicles suspected of camping and educating them on the rules and regulations that apply in the area.

“This has been effective in reducing the number of people allegedly camping, however we are aware some people are moving between a number of sites as well as new people who arrive,” the City of Melbourne spokesperson said.

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