Stuart Park campers get leniency ... this time

North Wollongong's temporary "tent city" will be subject to a new control strategy by the time the next New Year's Eve countdown occurs, according to Wollongong City Council.

Hordes of visitors rang in the New Year from tents pitched illegally along the North Wollongong foreshore, most travelling from western Sydney and claiming a patch of Stuart Park for two days and one night.

Under the Local Government Act, a $110 on-the-spot penalty applies for camping at the site, however Wollongong council opted not to issue fines "on this occasion".

MORE: Wollongong's tent city

"Instead, officers spoke to people at the park and liaised with NSW Police regarding the activity," a spokeswoman said.

"Council is not out to spoil the fun of New Year's Eve partygoers. However there are issues relating to public safety and amenity related to the use of this foreshore park for camping.

"As we work with the NSW Police to plan New Year's Eve 2013 we will develop a strategy to deal with the potential for overnight camping."

The Mercury understands camping bans can be difficult to enforce en masse, partly because tents can be claimed to be sun shade structures during the day.

Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh said the tent city represented some benefit to the region's tourism economy, but also came at a potentially high cost.

"That these visitors are having a great time and going away and telling their friends only enhances our reputation as a tourism destination," he said.

"My concern would be that Stuart Park does not have the infrastructure to deal with a large number of overnight visitors and I would hate to see the beauty of our natural resources, like North Beach, compromised."

Mr Sleigh said he would prefer to see visitors channelled into the city's camp sites and hotels, which are close to where fireworks are held.

"Working with the accommodation providers to provide public transport to and from the events would also be a fantastic selling point for NYE in Wollongong in the future," he said.

The tent city has divided opinion from Mercury readers, although objectors outnumber supporters on the website.

Those unperturbed by the phenomenon argued it occurred one day a year, that the coast belonged "to us all" and couldn't be claimed by locals, and that the visitors were friendly.

Objectors pointed to the camping being illegal and tantamount to "a freebie for the squatters". They lamented the revenue lost by council's decision not to issue fines, the related traffic delays and resulting litter.

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