AN AGEING country musician has vowed to stand his ground despite being ordered by council to vacate a private property in Manilla.
Ellis Girrard moved his motor home onto the isolated six-acre property of a friend last week and has been happily camping there since with his partner Jackie and two dogs.
But despite being on private land, Mr Girrard was this week deemed an “environmental hazard” by Tamworth Regional Council and told by a ranger to leave the grounds or face a hefty fine.
Manilla businesswoman Ruth Buckler, who owns the property, branded the decision “bureaucracy gone mad”.
“My block is just an empty paddock and he’s not doing any harm,” Mrs Buckler said.
“The whole thing is just outrageous. Council shouldn’t have a right to tell me what to do with my property.”
She claimed a number of caravans were already camping in the town on council property and called the council “hypocritical”.
Mr Girrard has been using his grey water to keep native trees on the property alive and has been transporting his sewerage waste to a designated dump point in Manilla.
The US-born singer, who has been in the region since playing at the 2013 Tamworth Country Music Festival, has become an “adopted local” in Manilla, volunteering to play at a host of charity and community events. He previously had his bus stationed on industrial land at Manilla BP, but was booted off by council.
“This is a private deal between two private people,” Mr Girrard said.
“There’s no money changing hands – I’m looking after her property and she’s letting us stay here.
“It’s not like we’re going to be here for five years.
“I don’t believe I’ve done anything wrong and it’s devastating to be told we have to leave.”
He warned council would have to forcibly remove him to vacate the property.
Council’s director of planning and community services Jackie Kruger denied Mr Girrard was being evicted, but said he was being “encouraged” to leave.
“Council has not provided an eviction notice,” Mrs Kruger said.
“We have advised the owner that technically speaking, campervans should not occupy land for more than two days at a time.
“Our main concern if he was camped there indefinitely, is that his grey water and sewerage could become a health hazard.
“Councils don’t allow people to build houses in residential areas where they are going to distribute all their dishwater and bathwater over the land.
“We’ve sent Mr Girrard the message it is undesirable for him to stay, there is no action being taken to remove him.”
James Woodford from youcamp.com, a website that connects landholders with grey nomads, said councils across the nation were grappling with the issue of camping on private property.
“Councils just have to be more nimble and allow visitors to camp on private land as long as the environment is protected,” Mr Woodford said.
“There are too many forcing people to stay in traditional van parks and not everyone wants that experience.
“There are thousands of private properties owned by good people and farmers that are struggling and they would love to host travellers.
“This is a massive problem around Australia. The world is changing and councils can no longer just have a blanket rule for this.”