THE security guard tasked with patrolling the temporary camping ground at Lake Canobolas says she is disgusted and ashamed of how backpackers were treated, after campsites were shot at in broad daylight on Sunday.
Sarah White’s employer was contracted by Orange City Council to patrol the camping ground each night from 8pm to midnight over the past five weeks.
When she arrived at work on Sunday night, backpackers told her their campsites were shot at by the occupants of a dark blue ute with a cage at about 3:30pm.
“They pulled up with an air rifle and shot at them [the campers],” she said.
“They were driving from Canobolas to Orange and hit the tarp [with the shot] then they came back and fired a second shot that pierced the [backpackers’] car.”
She contacted police about Sunday’s “cowardly act”, that came just one day before the temporary camping ground was due to close, but said it was not the first time backpackers feared for their safety and were terrorised by passersby.
On other occasions “locals” had let off firecrackers in the camping ground and spotlights were used to harass campers while they tried to sleep.
“They think they’re funny, but they’re not. As a community we should be ashamed"
Ms White was unsure if the incidents were racially motivated.
“A lot of it [the verbal abuse] you can’t understand because they’re swearing and revving their vehicles,” she said.
“They think they’re funny, but they’re not. As a community we should be ashamed.
“If this wasn’t a planned attack on backpackers we have some dickheads going around with guns in their car and they could be doing it to anyone.”
Canobolas Local Area Command Inspector Dave Harvey said police were investigating Sunday’s incident, but believed a slingshot had been used to damage the tent and vehicle.
“Police attended today as well as detectives,” he said.
“There is no evidence of an air rifle or any rifles at all.”
He said police were seeking assistance from anyone who had seen a blue ute with silver sides.
The camping ground was established to offer backpackers a safer place to stay while working during the picking season.
Another backpacker told Ms White he moved to the lake after he was left choking from fumes when a group of “idiots” let off a fire extinguisher in the car he was sleeping in near Mount Canobolas.
Ms White said she was aware of noise complaints levelled at campers, but said on most nights they obeyed the 10pm curfew and other residents were just as noisy.
“Either way you can’t shoot at people for a noise complaint,” she said.
“The backpackers are moving on, but we have to live with these people in the community. I think it [the camping ground] is a good idea so they’re not camped on the edge of the road ... but I just think a bit more planning has to go into it for the future.”
Orange City Council development services director David Waddell was on-site yesterday with police officers and detectives, but declined to comment about the incident while police investigations continued.
The council will close the gate to the campsite this morning in line with original plans for it to cease at the end of the picking season.
Mr Waddell said the initiative would be reviewed before the council decided if the camping ground would reopen next season.
“This has been a trial for Orange City Council to stand up and try to do something for pickers,” he said.
“Obviously there’s been some teething problems this year, were we to do it next year we’d learn from that. It’s certainly got them off the roads which has been positive.”