Campers have returned to the dunes at Dee Why despite being cleared out by NSW Police and Northern Beaches Council in October 2022.
The move in October followed a violent fracas at one of the sites wherein a man set fire to a tent and was seen chasing another with a machete.
Manly Observer was aware of a return of activity in the area within week’s of Northern Beaches Council’s demolition of the quarters, which included significant rubbish, but held off on reporting on the issue to allow for the matter to be addressed by authorities. With addiction and mental health issues also a likely comorbidity alongside homelessness, it is a difficult issue to manage across several responsible agencies.
However this January, there have been renewed reports from beachgoers of thefts, as well as drug paraphernalia found by those seeking to clean the nature reserve. The camp continues to slowly grow.
Deciding not to visit the site ourselves this time, we have instead received captured drone footage of the new campsite near the Dee Why lagoon.
The issue is well-known by police, Northern Beaches Council and locals, with many complaints over what residents have described as a makeshift ‘tent city’ being responsible for various anti-social behaviour, as well as environmental damage.
NSW Police refuses to comment and refers the issue to council as the responsible agency.
We contacted Northern Beaches Council and a spokesperson confirmed that campers had indeed returned and that they were working to relocate them to temporary accommodation for the homeless.
The spokesperson confirmed that since the issue arose in 2020, a number of individuals had taken up the offer of relocation, but Council CEO Ray Brownlee said recent efforts had been rebutted.
“We have been working with relevant homeless support agencies for several years now to provide assistance to those living in the dunes at Dee Why, but this assistance has been declined,” Mr Brownlee said.
“Homelessness is a complex issue and Council will continue to take a balanced and compassionate approach to work with relevant agencies to support the individuals affected.
“We urge anyone who has witnessed any incident of any criminal activity to contact local police to be investigated.”
Council also confirmed that as there has been considerable impacts to the dune environment; signage and fencing has been installed to ask people to keep out of the area while dune restoration is in progress.
Operating a caravan park or camping ground is an activity requiring council approval under Section 68 of the Local Government Act 1993 unless excepted by the Local Government (Manufactured Home Estates, Caravan Parks, Camping Grounds and Moveable Dwellings) Regulation 2005 (LG Regulation 2005), other legislation or a local approvals policy.
In our previous coverage of this issue Daniel Peterson, Manager of Homeless Outreach Service Community Northern Beaches said they had reached out to the campers on numerous occasions to assist in finding them new accommodation, but that they could not be forced.
Others working within the welfare system say the issue should be seen in broader context – even if they were removed and given temporary housing, after that temporary arrangement is complete they are likely to be once more without a home, basic provisions and much hope.
The situation appears at an impasse.