Ellis Beach illegal camper saga


Karlie Brady


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The makeshift camp has been set up on the side of the highway between Cairns and Port Douglas for months. Image: Newsport.
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An illegal camper who has set up on the side of the Captain Cook Highway near Ellis Beach for months has caused a stir with many left unhappy as the camp continues to grow.

The camp has been on the side of the highway for around five months and now even sports its own garden.

Division 9 Cairns regional councillor Brett Olds, whose division includes the area in question, is unhappy that this issue has dragged on for so long.

“Camping next to any highway in Queensland is not allowed. A driver may stop on the side of a highway for 24 hours if they are fatigued but camping, especially along this marked section, is illegal,” Cr Olds told Newsport.

“My thoughts are there should be one rule for everyone. Either it’s ok to set up camp wherever people want, or it’s not.

“This campsite looks terrible and is the first thing people see on this beautiful drive and it will only encourage others to do the same.”

Cr Olds said as the makeshift home is on state land it is the responsibility of the Department of Transport & Main Roads (TMR).

“Council Rangers have no authority here, even if it was Council owned land, which this land is not, this land is State-owned. Police could only get involved if TMR wrote an official letter to them and asked for their help

“The Smithfield Police have stated multiple times that they’re happy to help but TMR refuses to contact them and keep saying that “we’re training our own officers and will take care of this”.

“That was four months ago when they told me this," Cr Olds said.

“If this lady is having a hard time, or is down on her luck, there are organisations there to help with food and shelter and I’d encourage TMR to put them in touch with her."

Cr Olds has been left frustrated by the Department’s apparent inaction saying he receives calls and emails on a weekly basis from the community about the issue.

“It took the community, the Council and the Police almost five years to get them to put up the ‘no camping’ signs. They don’t seem to move very quickly on much.”

Classifieds: Douglas Shire Public Notices and Council Notices

A Transport and Main Roads spokesperson told Newsport that it is a complex matter, and they are working on it as quickly as possible.

“We are aware of concerns about people camping near Captain Cook Highway, near Ellis Beach, and recently installed signs to advise people that camping near the road is prohibited,” the spokesperson said.

“There were changes to the legislation governing camping near state-controlled roads in September 2020.

“We continue to work with agencies on enforcement of the new legislation regarding camping near state-controlled roads.

“TMR has also approached a not-for-profit community organisation which will contact campers in the area to help provide information on services available.”

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