Backpacker proposal attacked
By DAVID MOASE
BACKPACKERS are accused of being thieves and drug dealers, according to a pamphlet opposing plans for a tourist hostel at the landmark Hilltop Store at Sawtell.
The unattributed flier also says the presence of backpackers will lead to house values dropping and an increase in the amount of noisy parties.
The development application (DA) is for a 40-bed hostel with communal lounge and kitchen area in the existing shop, restaurant and neighbouring two-storey block of flats at the corner of First Avenue and 20th Avenue.
Late last week a pamphlet was being handed out and delivered to letterboxes calling on people to 'Say No!' to the redevelopment.
It listed a series of negatives linked to having a backpacker hostel, including that backpackers:
n "Don't work and can party all night."
n "Stay a night or two, have little or no money, may take whatever they see they can sell if you do not secure it."
Residents are also encouraged to 'say no to' drugs and dealings, loss of street access, extra noise, parties and house values dropping ? 'who wants to buy/live next to a backpackers'.
Brett Taylor, of Coastplan Consulting at Toormina, who prepared the development application, described the pamphlet as 'a load of rot'.
"The person who wrote it must be pretty naive and those views are way out of date," Mr Taylor said.
"Backpackers these days are probably better educated and have more money than you or I.
"They want to use hostels as a network to travel around Australia, particularly women who feel secure staying in these establishments."
Mr Taylor would not identify the proponents of the plan, saying only that they were 'two-three guys in their 40s who are locals, living in and around Sawtell' who were looking for a long-term investment.
Coffs Harbour mayor Cr Keith Rhoades, who met with residents concerned about the development on Monday morning, said he found the pamphlet to be 'very distasteful'.
"Many residents have contacted me since to express their disgust at what was circulated," he said yesterday.
"The author or authors should be very disgusted with themselves if they had to resort to these levels to push home their point."
Cr Rhoades said he was invited to Monday's meeting attended by about 32 people 'predominantly' opposed to the development.
He said the residents' concerns included parking, noise and possible social impacts, and at a meeting at the council yesterday the developers were told they would have to submit a revised DA addressing those worries.