COUNCILLORS should change a Huntly park's legal status to move disadvantaged residents on, City of Greater Bendigo staff say.
Elected officials will consider the proposed solution to the long-running Huntly Lions Park issue when they meet on Monday night.
A report circulated ahead of the meeting says some long-term campers have refused housing agencies' offers for alternative accommodation.
The council has been trying to work out how to move people on after they began living at the small park originally intended for travelers to stay for a few days at a time.
It delayed making a decision in 2021, citing higher levels of homelessness across Bendigo during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns.
"It appears that the situation is not changing at the park," city staff have written in the new report.
They have recommended removing the park's "reservation purpose".
That would give the council the power to move people on under community local laws.
The changes would also mean no-one would be able to camp there without a permit. The park would likely become a general recreation and picnic area.
"Given the concerns raised by some members of the Huntly community, it is unlikely that a permit would be issued," city officers said.
Council staff have also asked councillors to remove another park's reservation purpose in Marong in a bid to stop identical challenges in other parts of the municipality.
A vote to remove reservation purpose at either park would not have immediate effect.
The Department of Land, Water, Environment and Planning would need at least four months to deal with any application from the council.
That would also give council officers time to advise campers and housing agencies of the potential reforms.
Adding to the complexity of the situation, homelessness rates do not appear to have abated since the height of the pandemic, council officers say.
But they say some residents of the site have extended their camps to include more permanent fixtures despite being offered other housing.
The council has fielded "continued" complaints from members of the public about behaviour at the park, the council officers said. The Lions Club is concerned about having its name attached to the park given some of the activities currently going on there.
Council officers met late last month with Victoria police and housing agency Haven; Home, Safe.
Both groups agreed that changing the park's reservation purpose would act as an incentive to move people on, council staff said in their report.
Police also said it would give them more power to "influence camper behavior" in the reserve.
City staff presented another option for councillors to consider.
It could make no change and keep working with Victoria police and Haven; Home, Safe to make sure the park remains well-maintained.
"This option will lead to continued concerns being raised by the wider community," city officers said.
"If Council chooses Option 2, to limit the reputation risk of having to evict current campers, it is proposed that a comprehensive communications and engagement plan be put in place to ensure all stakeholders have enough warning of proposed changes."
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