Council clampdown on Stuart Park camping

The party looks to be over for hundreds of would-be illegal campers as council rangers prepare to get tough on revellers wanting to spend Tuesday night in Stuart Park for New Year's Eve.

Each year, the small patch of prime real estate between Puckeys Estate and North Wollongong Surf Club has become a tent city, as hordes from beyond the beachside suburbs descend, bringing tents, rugs and festive cheer.

Though it is illegal for people to camp overnight, authorities have found themselves in a grey area, partly because tents can be claimed to be sun-shade structures during the day.

But this year, Wollongong City Council has said enough is enough.

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"Council rangers will be on duty during the day, and will speak with people in the area to inform them camping in Stuart Park and other foreshore areas is not permitted," a council spokesperson said.

"When they finish for the day rangers will provide a briefing to the police, who will then monitor the area overnight and act accordingly if anyone is found camping illegally."

It is not illegal for people to be in the park late into the night. But if they sleep there overnight, they could receive a fine of $110.

The spokesperson said council staff were not expecting any major issues at the park.

"By working with police and the community, council hopes to ensure a safe and trouble-free start to the new year," they said.

The Mercury has regularly covered the issue in previous years, and stories have ignited fierce debate online.

Some commentators have voiced support for the visitors, saying the revellers take their good experiences home with them, increasing the city's tourism appeal.

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

Objectors lamented the council revenue lost by non-issue of fines, the related traffic delays and the resulting litter.

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