Stuart Park, North Wollongong and surrounds a popular spot on New Year's Day

Punters relaxed and/or tended to their hangovers in tents and sun-shade structures littered throughout North Wollongong’s Stuart Park on New Year’s Day. 

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

While remaining a popular spot to beat the heat, Stuart Park and surrounds didn’t appear as heavily populated with campers on New Year’s Day morning when compared to recent years, perhaps due to the prior evening’s chilly weather.

A council lifeguard addresses people swimming at Puckey's on New Year's Day.  Picture: Sylvia Liber

A council lifeguard addresses people swimming at Puckey's on New Year's Day. Picture: Sylvia Liber

However, the issue of illegal camping has been a problem at popular parks such as Stuart Park for years.

While shade structures or tents are allowed during the day, they must be down by 6pm of an evening. 

Although unable to confirm yet whether any fines had been issued for illegal camping during New Year’s celebrations at Stuart Park, Wollongong City Council issued a warning prior to the festive period.

“Council’s ranger services will be on patrol (with) NSW Police to ensure all people have access to the parks and can enjoy them safely,” a council statement said.

“Rangers and police officers will also enforce the no-camping rules in parks and reserves adjacent to our popular beaches.

“Camping at parks and reserves is prohibited unless specified, and rangers will monitor illegal camping and shade structures over the Christmas and New Year.

“Rangers will be working proactively with NSW Police to ensure that park users are aware of the restriction. In addition, rangers will monitor parking near events and popular locations to ensure pedestrians and pathway users can access and move safely.”

By 9am on New Year’s Day, many small children and adults were swimming in the creek entrance to Puckey’s Beach, where there are known risks (including strong currents and submerged rocks) and lack of lifeguard patrols. 

The Mercury observed a passing council lifeguard addressing a man who had ventured into the water at the troublesome spot while seeking to use an inflatable mattress as a makeshift bodyboard.