The ACT Government has closed the Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) campsite for the rest of March in response to possible protest activity in the coming weeks. There is concern protestors will now look to new locations in the Capital Region for camping areas.
In a statement released yesterday (17 March), ACT Policing declared it was aware of people planning to travel to Canberra to participate in protest activity and warned them to secure accommodation before arriving in the ACT.
They revealed that with Venues Canberra closing the EPIC campsite for the remaining days of March, the ACT has limited camping availability with many sites at or near capacity. While declaring their support for peaceful protests, the police pleaded with protesters to make appropriate accommodation arrangements in advance of their arrival.
“Camping outside of a designated site in the ACT is an offence and campers will be asked to move on. Those who refuse to do so may be subject to fines and/or arrest,” the spokesperson said.
Protestors were moved on from EPIC last month after more than 10,000 people gathered to protest at Parliament House. The camping activity infamously led to the Lifeline Canberra book fair cancellation.
An ACT Government spokesperson said that EPIC has several major events on the horizon, including the National Folk Festival and Groovin the Moo. They stressed that camping could be available by request to guests of these events but would remain closed to the public for the time being.
“It is not unusual for Venues Canberra to close the EPIC campsite at this time of year to allow for preparation and maintenance for these major events,” wrote the spokesperson.
“It is important to note the protesters camping in EPIC during February were not camped in the formal campground but rather in the event precinct, which is not a designated camping site.
“Campers are reminded that they must only set up in designated and available camping sites.”
Region Media reported on Wednesday (16 March) that the ‘freedom’ protesters were planning a “massive protest” this weekend with a candlelight vigil in Glebe Park, music on the Parliament House lawns and a barbecue at Henry Rolland Park. They’re also expected to return for the release of the Federal Budget on 29 March.
With the ACT’s other campsites nearing capacity, the police suspect protestors would look to the surrounding region for camping areas.
Some of those surrounding areas include the Queanbeyan-Palerang and the Yass Valley.
A Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council spokesperson said that the council was already aware of properties being targeted by campers seeking accommodation in the region after being moved on from EPIC. Council staff are currently investigating instances where this has occurred.
A Yass Valley Council spokesperson suggested that there were expecting a large number of protestors seeking accommodation in the Yass Valley due to the closure of EPIC.
They revealed that their rangers would be patrolling recreational areas for illegal camping and working with police in moving people on who don’t comply with their rules.
“We would like to remind protestors that Murrumbateman Recreation Grounds are not approved for camping and that police moved protestors on from the area last time,” wrote the spokesperson.
“We also remind protestors that Yass Showground is not operated by us and is closed this weekend due to Yass Show.”