A SAFE camping ground near Orange is essential for the fruit growing industry and for the thousands of pickers working in Orange each season, according to an orchardist.
Caernarvon Cherry Company owner Fiona Hall and other orchardists in the area asked Orange City Council to provide a camping ground at Lake Canobolas to accommodate workers during the cherry and apple picking seasons.
The temporary camping site came under fire recently from regular users of the lake who described it as an eyesore and criticised backpackers for trashing the area.
But Mrs Hall said the campsite’s detractors would feel differently if it was their own children looking for a safe place to stay when working overseas.
Up to 80 workers stay on her property during the picking season, but she said more campsites were sorely needed by all orchardists.
“We alone had 1000 people on our books from November to January,” she said.
“Ninety per cent were backpackers and that’s just us ... without them we wouldn’t get our crops off.
“Some might work at three or four orchards.”
"Without them we wouldn’t get our crops off ... some might work at three or four orchards"
Nicolas Lecompte was among a group of French backpackers staying at the campsite for the past month while apple picking.
He said the group was criticised on Clean Up Australia Day for not tidying up and other campers had copped complaints from nearby residents for playing music too loud.
But he believed the problems could be fixed if the campsite was relocated.
“If they moved it behind the trees they would be a sound screen for the neighbourhood,” he said.
Mrs Hall agreed and said while the location may need to be changed the concept was fantastic.
Mr Lecompte admitted some campers littered the site with rubbish, but said they would clean before they left and increased council patrols would not help.
“The council provide us with a huge bin,” he said.
“If the council came more often and said, ‘It’s dirty you have to clean’, they [campers] will feel they’re being forced.”
Mrs Hall praised the council’s decision to create the temporary camping ground and supports Cr Reg Kidd’s push to provide a permanent camping area and RV park near the “picturesque” lake.
“I take my hat off to them,” she said.
“They’ve spent a lot of money on the showers and they’ve spent a lot of money on security.”
She said orchardists needed workers from February to May each year during the cherry and apple seasons.
Mr Lecompte was also positive about the campsite, saying it was more affordable than the showground, but said a clothesline and more showers were needed if the site was to become a long-term option.