Backpackers attacked on arrival in Coffs
By CRAIG McTEAR
DRUNKS and vagrants threaten to ruin the honeymoon Coffs Harbour is enjoying with its backpackers.
Hostels are outraged their guests arriving at, or leaving, the Coffs Harbour Coach Terminal are regularly accosted for cigarettes, alcohol and money, and are even being abused and assaulted.
They've had eggs thrown at them, been spat on, and told to 'get the f... out of here, this is my country'.
Barracuda Backpackers general manager, Steven Schumacher, says these incidents leave a bad taste in backpackers' mouths, which Coffs Harbour can't afford if it wants the industry to grow.
"It's the last thing they remember about the place, and word of mouth sticks. It's become so bad at the bus stop I don't let my female staff come here at night."
Jade Ross, who drives the Barracuda Backpackers bus, said it was only last week when a young tourist was attacked at the terminal.
"He stepped off the bus and was approached by a guy who asked him for a cigarette," Jade said.
"He refused and said he had none, and the other guy, who had companions with him, punched him. It was about 4.20pm.
"It's not a good image for Coffs Harbour when backpackers are being approached by drunk people all the time. We're trying to get tourists in here and they're scaring them away.
"It's not just this place they come to. When they're kicked out of the shelter, they go somewhere else."
Jade wants more police patrols around the terminal to deter bad behaviour.
Kiarne Attwill, the Hoey Moey Backpackers bus driver, said: "There's refuges in Coffs Harbour. I don't understand whey they have to use this as their home.
"I don't understand how they don't have a home but they have money to buy alcohol. Besides, they shouldn't be drinking here. It's an alcohol-free zone."
Kiarne also says the bus terminal is far from inviting for visitors, especially at night.
"After 5pm, the tourist centre is shut and so there's nothing open here. There's nowhere to secure luggage. There used to be lockers, but they've been taken away," she said.
Coffs Coast Marketing manager Rob Cleary said: "We have constantly called the police, who have on many occasions come down and attended to these issues.
"It's not an ideal welcome for our visitors. It's far from it. It's a perennial problem.
"What would be good is if the community could come on board with this issue and if people are loitering after business hours, or if there is vandalism, please call the police."
Coffs/Clarence acting crime manager, Detective Senior Sergeant Peter O'Reilly, said if a problem came to the attention of local police, 'we will target it with all the appropriate resources'.