By Aaron Goodwin
Despite Police education and enforcement, it appears the message isn’t working at the Norval Park Campgrounds, with people continuing to illegally trespass, dump rubbish, steal and cut down fences and trees.
Police have been running an operation to deter these incidents at the campground since July last year, and while there has been some drop in the amount of offences, significant damage to property owned by Bundaberg Sugar and to the environment is continuing.
Police have joined forces with Bundaberg Sugar and the land’s Traditional Owners, renewing calls for people to stop damaging and trespassing over the land.
Bundaberg Sugar owns a nine kilometre privately owned stretch of beachfront on Norval Park Beach, and that land is zoned for environmental purposes as the company works with the land’s Traditional Owners to rehabilitate the local plant and wildlife in the area.
Officer in Charge and Sergeant of the South Kolan Police Matt Swan, said that on Easter weekend there will be an increased Police presence in the area, with the Wide Bay Tactical Crime Squad, South Kolan and Gin Gin Police to converge on the area looking for offenders.
”It’s not just the criminal matters but it’s also the environmental factors that the victim business wish to take into consideration,” Sgt Swan said.
”In the last six weeks there has been 22 infringement notices issued.
”Two people have been diverted from these infringement notices through to the court system and will be appearing in the Bundaberg Magistrates Court.
”We still have another 40 matters that are currently under investigation, with the likelihood that infringement notices will be issued.”
Unlawfully trespassing on land offence can carry a six month term of imprisonment and a $2,600 fine.
An infringement notice of $266 is for trespassing or the matter can be sent to court where is a higher degree of penalty available.
”’What we are finding is the offenders are travelling over the sand dunes over the private property and traversing north or south of the camping area behind those sand dunes,” Sgt Swan said.
”Over the last few years there have been instances of items being stolen including the trespassing signage and a lot of dumping of rubbish.
”The blatant disregard of the community when we have such great signage is just shocking.”
Bundaberg Sugar General Manager of Farms Simon Doyle said that the company’s cane, macadamia and cattle operations in the area are being targeted by offenders.
”Over the years there’s been a lot of damage to infrastructure here; fences being cut, cattle let out, trees chopped down and a lot of damage to environment by driving over the sand dunes, destroying vegetation,” Mr Doyle said.
”It’s hugely disappointing, it’s a beautiful part of the world and to receive damage like that is heartbreaking.
”Particularly for the cattle guys, who are up this end of the property, it’s them that are having their fences cut and their cattle released.
”When caught, they try and plead ignorance but with all the signage around it’s a bit hard to accept that.”
Everett Johnson is a Gooreng Gooreng man and Traditional Owner of the Norval Park Campground area.
”This is a very special place to the Traditional Owners, it has cultural and ecological significance,” Mr Johnson said.
”There’s been a lot of trespassing, illegal camping, dune destruction and rubbish dumping.
”We also have a freshwater spring here that’s an aquifer that fills up and you have people driving through there destroying a lot of those wetlands.
”It breaks your heart when you see people come through and do the wrong thing.”
Heading into the Easter weekend, Sgt Swan had some stern messages for the public.
”If you are out here, we want you to enjoy your weekend,” Sgt Swan said.
”If you are out here doing the wrong thing you will be caught and there will be consequences for your actions .
”Come out enjoy the beach, that’s fine, but stay off other people’s property.”