Schoolies refuse to move 'squatters camp'
MAX Timbury had the perfect plan for schoolies.
Instead of forking out money to stay in an apartment in Airlie Beach, he'd round up his friends and set up a camp complete with a port-a-loo on his grandfather's vacant property on the corner of Waterson Way and Orana Street.
But his plan was interrupted when a Whitsunday Regional Council ranger told Max and his friends to pack up their stuff and vacate the property by 6pm last night or they would be fined.
It was the owner of Airlie Central Apartments, Bill Sharpe, who was made aware of the disruption after receiving a phone call from the resort's cleaner who said a group of teenagers had made themselves at home on the land next door to the resort.
"The issue here is they're setting up a squatters' camp on the main street of Airlie Beach," he said.
"It's a disgrace for the area to think on one side of the fence, one person could be paying up to $200 a night and on the other side, they're camping there."
On Sunday, Council arrived at the property after receiving a complaint where Max's grandfather Warren Barry, who lives on a neighbouring street, called police in on terms of trespassing.
Senior Sergeant Nathan Blain of the Whitsunday Police said the issue was not a policing matter and had been referred back to the council.
"There's been no complaints (about) sound from the area," he said.
"This one falls back on the council and there's no criminal offences being committed."
Max said he couldn't understand what the issue was.
"I'm a relative and I had permission from my grandad and he doesn't mind if I stay here," he said.
"Council sent a guard at about 3pm (yesterday) and they told us we had to be gone by 6pm and other than that they wouldn't say what it was or what we were doing wrong."
Mr Sharpe said he was well aware the group had permission from the land owner but it was no excuse for the damage it was doing to his resort and surrounding businesses.
"He's turning Airlie Beach into a place where anyone can come along, get a vacant piece of land, set up a tent and have a lovely holiday at the expense of the community," he said.
"You can't reside on it and you can't use it as a camp ground.
"When camp grounds are constructed they have toilets, showers and (all) the things necessary so you can dispose of your waste."
Brendan Riley was one of the other schoolies with Max when they were asked to leave and said if forced to relocate, they wouldn't have anywhere else to go.
"We don't want to be harassed," he said.
"It feels like council is unfairly targeting us because we're schoolies and they aren't making money off us."
Mr Sharpe said he specifically made his resort a "schoolies free zone" for the sake of tourists who were not involved and just wanted a holiday in the Whitsundays.
"On one side (of a fence) you've got tourists paying a premium dollar- at least $200 a night to enjoy the Whitsundays, and their experience has been diminished severely as a result of one resident whose grandkids have set up residence on the main street of Airlie Beach," he said.
Whitsunday Regional Council's Planning and Local Laws department is currently investigating the complaint.
Meanwhile Snr Sgt Blain said the overall response to schoolies had been positive aside from a small number of fines issued and arrests.
At about 9pm yesterday, a 17-year-old Townsville man was arrested for public nuisance and banned from Schoolies Central for the remainder of the evening.
Since Schoolies kicked off on Saturday, four minors have been issued with tickets for having alcohol while two other underage schoolies were charged with drug offences.
On Saturday, two 17-year-old men and one 18-year-old man from Ayr were arrested just 15 minutes arriving at their accommodation in Airlie Beach after allegedly possessing a quantity of drugs including MDMA, LSD and Cannabis.
With a high visible police presence in the area, Snr Sgt Blain said he hoped the message was coming through and would deter schoolies from behaving badly.
When asked in a street poll how they felt about schoolies, the six local residents approached were all supportive of the event.
"My daughter is a volunteer for schoolies and it looks really well supported"- Eric Barnard, Airlie Beach.
"The response has been really good and everyone's been well behaved"- Richie Ussher, Cannonvale.
"I work at a resort and I've been amazed. They've been behaving very well"- Maureen Barnard, Airlie Beach.
"I think they've done a good job because there's more red frogs running around"- Paris Greening, Mt Julian.
"I think it's good because they've got a lot more crew to help keep us safe"- Sabrina Walter, Cannonvale.
"They've got the set up much better than last year. It's more secure and there's more security"- Shaylah Lucas, Cannonvale.