GALLERY: Stuart Park's tent city the morning after

North Wollongong's Stuart Park was covered with tents on New Year's Eve, yet no fines were handed out, despite a prohibition on camping in the area.

The city woke on Wednesday morning to scores of tents, erected the night before across Stuart Park and neighbouring Galvin Park, which fronts the beach.

Cars belonging to the campers were parked illegally on the grass.

Stuart Park a tent city on New Year's Eve

The green public space had become a tent city, even though signs warned revellers that camping was not permitted and that penalties exceeded $100.

Wollongong City Council rangers were in Stuart Park early on Wednesday in an attempt to move groups on, but that was the extent of the action.

"Due to a number of campers still being intoxicated, and limitations to ranger powers under the law, no fines for illegal camping have been issued," a council spokesman said.

Campers set up in Stuart Park.

The issue of illegal camping has been a problem at Stuart Park for years. This year, the council issued a warning before New Year's Eve to clarify its position.

"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 spokesman said on Monday.

"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."

Hanging out in Stuart Park on the big night.

It is not illegal for people to be in the park late into the night, but camping overnight is illegal. To further complicate the issue, tents can be declared sun-shade structures during the day.

All the warnings appear to have made little impact.

On Wednesday, the spokesman said council rangers spoke to people with tents and other shade structures at Stuart Park yesterday, advising them camping was not permitted and that tents and other equipment must be removed at the end of the day.

Waking up to a new year in Wollongong.

"Overnight [on New Year's Eve] council liaised with police regarding the situation at Stuart Park," the spokesman said.

"Council will meet with key stakeholders to debrief and consider actions for future events."

Early yesterday, clean-up crews started the massive job of picking up litter, including broken glass that was scattered through the grass.

Wollongong City Council general manager David Farmer made a brief comment on Wednesday that council would undertake a review of the situation this year.

"It's a very difficult thing to manage," he said.

"We'd need to get feedback from [council] staff and the police and then work out how to manage it.

"Unfortunately, as it becomes more and more popular and institutionalised, it becomes more of an issue to try and manage it. But we will review it this year in concert with our rangers and the police and determine an appropriate strategy for next year," Mr Farmer said.

The issue of illegal camping in Stuart Park drew a mixed and heated response on the Mercury's website.

"A wonderful photo of beautiful people," one reader wrote in response to the Mercury's photo of tents erected in Stuart Park.

Meanwhile, Foxtrot from North Wollongong wrote: "How many of the hundreds of campers in Stuart Park last night were moved on and/or fined? I'll bet the answer is very few, if any at all."

By 10am on Wednesday, Stuart Park was still very busy with people gathered and tents set up for New Year's Day celebrations.

The rubbish from the night before had been cleaned up and only a handful of cars were illegally parked.

At 10.20am, a Mercury journalist spotted two cars illegally parked on the grass at Galvin Park and four cars at Stuart Park.

By mid-morning, many small children were swimming in Puckeys Lagoon, where there are known risks and no patrols.

The Novotel Wollongong Northbeach declined a request to provide its rates for New Year's Eve. However, according to its website, the cheapest room available for accommodation yesterday was $299.

The Windang Beach Tourist Park, which has a mix of cabins and powered sites for campers and caravans, was fully booked for New Year's Eve.

Details from council on the number of car parking fines issued and the clean-up from both camping and other festivities associated with New Year's Eve will be made available today.

How much could Wollongong City Council make out of Stuart Park campers?

 Legal camping: $67 (On season fee for two adults and two children to camp at an unpowered site)

 Illegal camping: $110 fine

 Metered parking: $9 ($0.75 per hour for 12 hours for an inner-city, space on the street)

 Illegal parking: $101 fine

 (Source: Wollongong City Council’s 2013-2014 Revenue Policy, Fees and Charges)

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