Conflict between local residents and illegal motorbike riders in the Bush Common has come to a head, with an inter-agency committee formed to tackle the escalating problem.
The group, called Ride On And Respect (ROAR), met for the first time on Thursday, with local residents, Tumut Police, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Forestry Corporation, Snowy Valleys Council, and MP for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire coming together to develop a comprehensive action plan.
They aim to send a clear message to bike riders that are making life a living hell for long-suffering residents.
Martin Place resident Tanya Schumer has been pushing for this sort of decisive action to be taken for months.
She said the problem far exceeds one or two stray riders making noise, and is severely impacting their daily lives.
“I don’t feel safe being out there anymore,” she said.
“I’ve had conflict with them, I’ve had rocks thrown at my fence.
“We’re all stressed. I had a gravel section in my backyard for years and years, and I’ve had to get rid of it because they use it as missiles to throw at the house. If they see your lights on they’ll intentionally come up and intimidate you.”
Rebecca Gilchrist said she’s worried about the behaviour of the pests around her young son.
“My dad’s had to fix the back fence multiple times because it’s been kicked in. I’ve got a toddler, and they’ve rocked at the shed that’s right next to my son’s room. If you say something they come back at night and kick your fence in.”
Other residents reported ornaments and fuel being stolen; broken windows; and deafening noise and dust at all hours, from 5 o’clock in the morning until past midnight.
Now, they have galvanised the community into taking action.
The biggest short-term step will be to deploy specialised motorbike police from Wagga Wagga over the coming weeks to assist the local force.
Other potential options are to create a buffer zone in between the residents’ fences and the Common, to install cameras to catch the perpetrators, and to block key points of access.
One attendee of the meeting, Michael O’Keefe, has done past research into the viability of creating a motocross track for legal riders, similar to the one in Tumbarumba, which would give those that do the right thing a safe space to ride.
The group will continue to meet to explore these options.
The Bush Common is Crown Land, owned by the State Government, and is replete with trails for dirt bikes and four wheel drives.
However, the difference between the usual recreational vehicles in the Common and the current lot is that these ones deliberately harass the residents.
“I’ve got nothing against them riding dirt bikes around here,” said Darren Gilchrist.
“I used to do it myself, and I taught my kids. It’s the total lack of respect that’s the problem.”
Police said they are typically unregistered, and when caught, the perpetrators are often known to them in relation to other criminal activity around town.
Member for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire said that he was in the residents’ corner.
“This problem, sadly, is not unique to Tumut. It’s happening in towns across NSW,” he said.
“I sympathise with you; there is nothing worse than being terrorised like this. I’ve been through it myself.”
The meeting was facilitated by Inspector Stephen Radford of the Tumut Police.