Campers told to move

Beck Meyers and Nathaniel Muller were told by the local council that they could no longer camp on their privately owned property and have three weeks to find alternatives.

Two friends who set up a permanent campsite on their property at Campbells Creek have been told by the local council they have three weeks to move out.

Nathaniel Muller bought the two-and-a-half-acre block of land in 2020, intending to use it for camping.

But now Nathaniel is permanently camped on the bush block with his friend Beck Meyers, who bought into the property, and Beck’s two children aged 10 and seven years old.

Beck told the Express they had contacted Mount Alexander Shire Council to request a meeting but were still waiting to hear back.

“There has been so much press about how the council is becoming so much more compassionate about people’s living situations and the affordability of rent, so I feel surprised and dismayed at just how uncompassionate they are,” Beck said.

“Given the housing crisis, it feels a bit ludicrous to me, we’ve got everything here, we’re not causing harm, we’re complying with our waste system and we could just be adding to the burden and the strain that’s on society to find housing for everyone.”

Nathaniel and Beck had a meeting with Dhelkaya Health’s crisis housing service last week, but were told there was nothing available, other than emergency housing, which only lasts for three or four days.

“The council guidelines say the time frame has to be reasonable, so given the circumstances, we formally requested a review last Thursday. We can only hope that they consider it,” Nathaniel said.

“If they have any concerns, what are the concerns and what can we do to alleviate those concerns?

“The process is complicated. We went to the planning desk and they said we should have a meeting for any specific questions, which is what we have, because it’s zoned Farming and there are bushfire overlays and we want to talk about our ideas,” Nathaniel said.

“It does feel like a maze to try and find our way through, it’s so hard to get any clear answers,” Beck said.

Beck and Nathaniel initially spoke with a council officer in mid-March, and were advised they were not able to camp/live on site, but that there would be some flexibility while they made other arrangements. They then applied for a camping permit and received a refusal letter in May.

“We didn’t meet the approved requirements. They didn’t say what those requirements were, or which ones we didn’t meet, or how we can change them,” Nathaniel said.

“We want to work with the council to make it work for us and make it work for them.”

“All we want is for the council to come to the table with us and talk about options, tell us what can we do? What is the process to comply and do it properly? And the time to do it,” Beck said.

“We’ve looked. There’s nothing affordable or available.

“I’ve got two young kids and am a single mum with shared care. It’s a lot of pressure, but here we’re so happy, so low-impact and safe and not in a public park.”

Council’s director of infrastructure and development, Michael Annear, said council officers had raised concerns regarding safety with Ms Meyers and Mr Muller regarding proposed development at the site, and had provided time for Mr Muller and Ms Meyers to find alternative housing arrangements.

“Council is concerned about the affordable housing crisis in our shire, and we are working on a number of initiatives to address this challenge,” Mr Annear said.

“At the same time, council is required by law to implement council’s Local Laws, state government legislation and the Mount Alexander Planning Scheme for the general safety and amenity of our community.”