Ben and Pat Johns are still connected to their family's spiritual home Johns Landing.
Ben and Pat Johns are still connected to their family's spiritual home Johns Landing.

$2.2 million sale can’t tear Ben from family home

Selling up and moving away from his spiritual home has not ended Ben Johns’ daily connection with the idyllic riverside hideaway.

Noosa Council bought the 49ha land parcel from him for $2.2 million in 2017 for environmental preservation but he was awarded access rights for the rest of his life.

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Mr Johns’ grandfather settled at Johns Landing beside the Noosa River 128 years ago, kicking off the family’s guardianship which was faithfully fulfilled by Mr Johns and his best asset, wife Pat.

This idyllic Johns Landing setting on Noosa River was a magnet for hundreds of campers during the holidays.
This idyllic Johns Landing setting on Noosa River was a magnet for hundreds of campers during the holidays.

Their love of the land and caring nature has resulted in Johns Landing being transformed from farming parcels to a favourite camping site, a safe refuge for local down-and-outs and now an environmental refuge.

“I don’t own anything out there, but I’ve still got the rights to use two sheds (on site),” Mr Johns said from his retirement villa in Noosa Outlook.

“About midday everyday I go out to the farm and try and sort out what’s left out there.

“I’m setting up a caravan with all the tools I want to keep in a caravan so it’s towable, so when I die it can be towed off the property.

“So I’ve got to live as long as I can.”

The Johns stamp is everywhere out along the end of Johns Rd.

Mr Johns’ brother Cyril, who still lives on the property next door, also has access.

His son David is living on Cyril’s property in a bus and a caravan behind his house.

The old gateway entrance to Johns Landing campground.
The old gateway entrance to Johns Landing campground.

“I grew up there, I’ve been there all my life,” Mr Johns said.

“My grandfather bought the property next door in 1892 so it was a big thing to sell the place, but age is the problem,” he said.

Mr Johns said the council’s environmental restoration works would not be extensive because the family members were all conservationists.

“We didn’t knock down any trees or anything to build the amenities,” he said.

The camping ground at its height had about 100 permanent live-ins.

They were mostly battlers including struggling families who might otherwise have been homeless.

The grounds would swell to about 800 on the peak holiday weekends – visiting families who loved to launch their boats at the landing, paddle canoes on the river, swim and soak up the serenity.

Mr Johns said perhaps the biggest attraction was the minimal charge imposed.

It peaked at $9 per person a night when the campsite closed.

He was delighted his permanents who were in need of resettlement were looked after by the council and an unprecedented roundtable they convened of community support services.

“After about eight months they found accommodation for everybody,” he said.

“They all seemed to get along reasonably well and that, it was like a small community.

The Noosa News caught up with these two permanent campers Wazza and Snow at Johns Landing just before it closed in 2017 and they were forced to move on.
The Noosa News caught up with these two permanent campers Wazza and Snow at Johns Landing just before it closed in 2017 and they were forced to move on.

“We had canoes and bikes for hire and we even had a darts clubs that worked from there called The Landers.”

Mr Johns said the land is still used by locals as a recreation ground.

“People still walk in there and go fishing off the riverbank and they walk their dogs in there,” he said.

“I believe the council is still letting school groups and things like that launch canoes from Johns Landing and go paddling on the river.”

Council director of community services Kerri Contini paid tribute to the Johns family for trying to help low-income people in difficult circumstances.

Ms Contini said an ongoing feasibility process would look at the longer-term future of the land.

“Obviously Covid has delayed this, but it is planned for some time later this year,” she said.