Hundreds sign Mitchell camping petition, Sunwater responds

AS FLOCKS of tourists head out west as COVID forces travellers to explore their backyard, hundreds of concerned Mitchell residents have signed a petition after ‘no camping’ signs were erected at one of the town’s most popular camping spots.

The petition to keep free camping at the Neil Turner Weir, launched by the Booringa Action Group, has already amassed 584 signatures as of September 17, and 32 businesses are expected to sign.

But Sunwater has responded to the controversy and said camping had never been permitted on their land and it’s not possible to gather camper’s details as per the new COVID-19 requirements.

Booringa Action Group CEO Jeff Watson said the signs were suddenly erected on September 14, without any word from Sunwater as to why this was done.

“That obviously caused panic in the business area,” Mr Watson said.

“There was no prior announcement to anyone that it was going to happen and certainly no consultation.

“The whole thing is strange, why all of a sudden this has happened, not a whisper of a murmur about it.”

Mr Watson said that the petition aims to send a message to stakeholders that free camping is an essential part of Mitchell’s economy, given that up to 80 extra tourists can be in town due to the site.

A Sunwater spokesman said free camping has always been prohibited on Sunwater’s landholdings near the weir, and the new signs now clarify that.

“Sunwater’s priority is the safety of our people and the community,” he said.

“We appreciate the popularity of camping at Neil Turner Weir and the importance of visitors to the town of Mitchell.

While camping is permitted on Maranoa Regional Council land, it has never been allowed on adjacent Sunwater land, although the company understands people have been using it as a camping spot for some time.

The spokesman said Sunwater is also unable to keep a record of campers as per COVID-19 requirements that were introduced for camping areas earlier this year.

“Sunwater recently erected no camping signs on our land at the weir for safety reasons,” the spokesman said.

“We encourage all visitors to Mitchell to contact the council to confirm where they can camp safely.

“Sunwater has instigated discussions with the council regarding future options for land adjacent to Neil Turner Weir, including ways to allow public access for camping.”

After hearing the response Mr Watson was glad to hear that Sunwater was working to resolve the issue.

“We’re pleased to hear that they’re moving to resolve the matter with Council,” Mr Watson said.

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