Alexandra Laskie, 07 March 2016
A Kalkallo service station is battling to get rid of backpackers who have been camping in its truck parking bays.
The Caltex service station on the Hume Freeway has been inundated with backpackers since late last year.
Owner John Nasir said the backpackers. mostly European, began setting up camp in the petrol station’s truck carpark last October.
“From then on we saw trickles of it, but then just before the Australian Open [tennis tournament] it went ballistic,” Mr Nasir said.
“It was described as the Kalkallo gypsy camp. We’re talking between 30 and 40 camper vans.
“On a bad day you couldn’t fit a single truck in there. They sat out there with all their chairs, washing lines and barbecues.”
Unbeknown to Mr Nasir, someone had posted on a popular phone application used by backpackers – Wiki Camp Australia – describing the site as a free camping spot.
The service station’s truck park is provided for truck drivers who need to stop and catch up on sleep. Showering facilities and toilets for the drivers are provided at no cost.
Last Monday, Mr Nasir called the police to move the tourists on. He also contacted Wiki Camp Australia’s administration to have mention of the address removed.
Hume council has sent rangers to the site to patrol the area.
Because of the spot’s increasing popularity, travellers have also been camping along Mitchell and Cameron streets.
Council infrastructure director Peter Waite said several backpackers were given warnings and one $91 infringement notice was issued for illegally parking on a nature strip.
The Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association, which represents service stations, said this sort of situation was an “occasional problem”.
Chief executive Mark McKenzie said the main issue was safety because of the hazardous nature of petrol stations.
“Safe operation of a service station site is not consistent with camp-ground activity,” he said.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said police had recently had a similar issue in another area, but they were matters for local councils to manage.
“Our attendance at these matters is simply to ensure there’s no breach of the peace,” she said.
Extracted in full from the Star Weekly.