Country pub in deepwater with council

A country pub is in deep water with its local council for allowing passing travelers in self-contained caravans to park overnight on their lawn.

After publican Stuart O’Neil wrote a bestseller about mental health, he and his family bought the Deepwater Hotel in northern NSW.

It is located high in the hinterland at the top of the Great Dividing Range between Ballina and Coffs Harbor 140 km inland from the coast.

The pub sits on two acres of land with plenty of green space outside, perfect for travelers passing through to stop, grab a meal and spend the night before continuing their journey.

But Glenn Innes Severn Council disagrees. They want the pub to submit a development application to become a caravan park.

The council sent several letters to the scribe threatening legal action if he did not comply.

Mr O’Neil said the council wanted them to remove a sign from the front advertising beer and overnight parking.

“It’s literally a grass paddock,” he said.

“Most travelers arrive around 7pm and leave by 6am.

“The world is after us because someone complained, we’re just a country pub on a busy highway. We do not offer electricity, water, overnight parking only.

“We do this because people feel safe and come to the pub and have a beer or a meal.”

Mr O’Neil said 10km down the road the council offered the same thing at a motorway rest stop, a place where caravans could stop and spend the night.

“We support the locals here and employ people in the city,” he said.

“They claim that we operate an autocamp, but we don’t. We do not offer powered websites.”

Mr O’Neil said that, like many pubs in country towns, they relied on travelers stopping in to keep their business going.

“You can’t survive with 300 locals. Without travellers, the pub closes and the town loses its pub.’

While Glen Innes Severn Council agrees that allowing passers-by to stay overnight benefits the community, it did not deny the fact that the pub is legally required to submit a development application to the council.

“The rules apply to the whole of NSW,” a council spokesman said.

“The council would be happy to work with the applicant in obtaining development consent to ensure the appropriate standards are met, just as it would with any other applicant.

“Council can take enforcement action against any person or business that fails to comply with NSW law, such as the council’s role as a regulator in NSW.”

The council said the caravan development was permitted under zoning rules, but the council had not received a development application from the hotel owner.

A spokesman said the council now had a “duty” to take action against the hotel to ensure the development complied with relevant codes, policies and legislation.

The Standard Instrument Local Environmental Plan (LEP) defines motorhome parking as land with access to utility infrastructure used for the erection or erection of caravans or caravans and other mobile dwellings, but does not include farm dwellings.

In NSW, some types of construction required consent from the authority, mobile homes such as caravans and motorhomes on land were an activity that normally required council approval under the Local Government Act 1993.

Although there are limited exceptions to the requirement to obtain approval, the council said those exceptions did not apply in this case.

The National Environmental Planning (Housing) Policy 2021 stated that the use of land within the local government area for caravanning or camping was prohibited and could only be carried out with the consent of the development council.

There was a special provision in the regulations for the operation of a “primitive camp”, which was remote from urban areas and had limited capacity, but still had to meet a number of conditions.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure said it was a matter for the council to determine and regulate.

“The NSW Government is conducting a review of the assessment and approval process for motorhomes and manufactured homes,” a spokesman said.

“The NSW Government wants regional cities to thrive and will work with affected stakeholders as the review progresses.”

Country Pub Camping founder Jackie Bee said councils often lost sight of what was important and money spent in the community.

“Sometimes a lot of money,” she said.

Ms Bee started the Country Pub Camping group on Facebook in 2014, which now has a following of more than 142,000 like-minded people across Australia.

She started the group after camping in a pub in Nindigully and having such a good time that she started looking for other small towns and pubs to visit.

“They were quite hard to find, so I made a list and created a Facebook group, and it grew like crazy,” she said.

The site aims to support small communities like Deepwater in regional areas that may not otherwise see many travelers.

“I could do a page on bakeries, but not every town has a bakery but will have a pub,” she said.

Because the caravans were now self-contained and so well placed, Ms Bee said people did not need to stay in the car park unless they chose to.

“They can stay in a pub without electricity and use their caravan and it’s a safety aspect as well, you can just walk to the pub and not have to get behind the wheel afterwards,” she said.

“It’s really about getting people into regional communities and talking to people.”

Australian Hotels Association director of alcohol and police John Green said regional pubs had provided service and place of relaxation for the local community, travelers and gray nomads.

“Most bushland has enough space around it, so it makes sense that gray nomads and other campers can park overnight and have a meal and a beer – especially when the town doesn’t even have an RV park,” he said. .

“At the end of a long day, where would you rather park your caravan – in the pub area or in the caravan park?”

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