Photo at iconic Aussie beach sparks debate over picnic table etiquette: 'Height of selfishness'

A smart move? Or just plain selfish?

A photo taken at one of Sydney’s most popular beaches has kicked off a debate as old as time. Should eager picnickers be allowed to reserve picnic tables by dumping their stuff on top before taking off?

In the image from Bronte Beach, in the city’s exclusive eastern suburbs, two picnic tables can be seen under the same hut, both laid with table clothes and bags on top but without a human in sight.

“There were at least half a dozen of these tables ‘reserved’ for a couple of hours on Sunday morning from very early in the day,” the photographer wrote in a comment on social media.

Picnic tables with Bronte beach with tablecloths and backpacks on them.
"Thoughts on people reserving the picnic tables at Bronte beach in the morning during weekends?" the Reddit user asked online. Source: Reddit/Gozzhogger

“We got there at 7am and left a few hours later. No one was using the tables the entire time we were there.”

Image sparks outrage over 'unAustralian scene'

Since uploading the picture to Reddit, the photographer’s post has blown up, receiving more than 350 reactions and hundreds of comments.

And people had strong feelings, with one going so far as to label it “unAustralian”.

“It's not acceptable,” one person said. “You can reserve it by sitting there yourself, but not by leaving an item.”

“Yes, you should be actually using it, not leaving your s**t on there to reserve it for later,” another agreed. “It's the height of selfishness.”

But not everyone was on the same page, with one person pointing out that there were other available seats. “In this instance, it’s probably okay,” they commented. “The back table is free, go grab it.”

While others acknowledged the unspoken rules around shotgunning picnic spots.

“As long as there’s people there minding the tables, not just throwing a bunch of tablecloths down and walking off, I’m fine with it,” someone wrote. “First come first served.”

“If I was bringing a few things from the car I might do this,” another explained. “Like dropping off the tablecloth and backpack before grabbing the esky etc. But I'd maintain line of sight. Anything else isn't justified in my opinion.”

Barbecue area at a park.
There are plenty of picnic spots at the park oppositive Bronte beach in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Source: Waverley Council

Meantime, other Reddit users were quick to suggest what action they would take if they were in the photographer’s position.

“Move their stuff, move yourself in, and say, ‘it was like this when I got here’,” one person encouraged. “Assume they have gone home and left their rubbish behind and throw the grubs’ rubbish in the bin,” someone else recommended.

“All I see is a free tablecloth and free bag,” another pointed out.

Council urges people to 'refrain'

In a bid to settle the debate once and for all, Yahoo News Australia contacted Waverley Council to find out if these keen picnickers were in the wrong or not.

“We ask that people refrain from reserving tables and always have a back up plan if picnic shelters or barbecues are already in use,” a spokesperson for the council said.

They added that “generally” people use the public places fairly and “that there is space for all to enjoy our parks and reserves”, but admitted that it can get a little hectic.

“Waverley is the second-most densely populated local government area in Australia outside of the City of Sydney, and we attract millions of visitors every year, so our recreational spaces are at a premium,” explained the spokesperson.

“On weekends and at other peak times, picnic tables and barbecues do invariably fill up. So we ask people to share our spaces so that everyone can have a turn.”

In other words, every picnicker and barbecuer for themselves.

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