Unhappy holidays

THE tourism sector is split over a plan by South Gippsland Shire Council to attract more visitors.

Council is proposing to promote free camping sites around the municipality to lure the rapidly growing motorhome market, as part of its draft Recreational Vehicle (RV) Strategy.

Council wants to promote Franklin River Reserve at Toora, Bass Valley Camping Ground between Poowong and Loch, and Buckley Park, Fish Creek as sites suitable for RVs to stay.

But that proposal would rob caravan parks of business, Rachel Brown of the Toora Tourist Park told council last Wednesday.

On the other hand, Keith Moxham of the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia, said the plan would draw more holidaymakers to the shire and boost the economy.

Ms Brown said that for every $1 spent at caravan parks, another $1.38 is spent in the community through the parks employing staff.

“If that $1 is not spent in our caravan parks, then that $1.38 is not being spent in our community,” she said.

“If council wants to open up these camping grounds, they should charge and that would mean we would then be able to compete.”
Ms Brown said promoting the Franklin River Reserve as a motorhome stop would negatively impact her nearby business.

“Every night there are up to 10 groups there: people in tents, motorhomes and staying in cars. Most of them are not self contained,” she said.

“There is one toilet block serviced by tank water and no shower facilities, so I guess that’s why they sneak into my caravan park at night to have a free shower.”

Based on a nightly rate of $35, missing out on those 10 groups cost her business $350 a night, Ms Brown said.

With lost revenue plus additional costs of water, waste management and risk, Ms Brown said free campers cost the community $82,000 a year.

Ms Brown said she has ample powered sites to cater for extra RV visitors and said if council opened reserves to free camping, it was exposing itself to risks.

Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks, chairman of council’s economic development and tourism committee, said council was trying to “increase the size of the pie” by allowing more businesses to benefit from tourists, not just caravan parks.

Cr Andrew McEwen said people have the right camp alongside roads in other states and added RV travellers tour on a set budget.

“You are not going to be getting more money from them by forcing them to stay at caravan parks,” he said.

Elizabeth White, CEO of the Victorian Caravan Parks Association, told council research had indicated free campers spend a third of the amount spent in the local community by people staying at caravan parks.

She said ratepayers would fit the bill for maintaining free sites, and claimed free camping would increase the risk of excess rubbish and waterways being contaminated.

Ms White also claimed council would be acting in an anti-competitive manner by establishing free camping reserves – a claim disputed by Keith Moxham, a director of the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia.

He said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission told him it had no issues with council offering free camping.

Mr Moxham said RV owners should have the right to stay at free camping reserves, adding 66 per cent of the club’s members stay at no frills sites or caravan parks.

“That is the 66 per cent you are not getting,” he told council.

He said Wellington and East Gippsland shire councils had adequate dump points and were drawing visitors away from South Gippsland. Furthermore, South Gippsland had few entries in the RV travellers’ bible, Camps Australia, he said.

He did state non self-contained vehicles should be staying at caravan parks to use park facilities.

As part of the strategy, council is proposing to install a dump point at Meeniyan. Dump points are effluent disposal points for RVs.

Ms Brown disagreed with this proposal.

“If a town wants a free dump point, I would not be opposed to that but I believe the town should pay for it. I can’t understand why the council thinks the ratepayers’ money should be paying for that,” she said.

Cr McEwen, a Meeniyan resident, supported a dump point for the town to encourage people to stop and spend.

Public comment on the draft strategy closes this Friday, February 28.


Think of us: Rachel Brown of the Toora Tourist Park is calling on South Gippsland Shire Council to not develop free camping reserves to the detriment of caravan parks’ bottomlines.

Think of us: Rachel Brown of the Toora Tourist Park is calling on South Gippsland Shire Council to not develop free camping reserves to the detriment of caravan parks’ bottomlines.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=10086

Posted by on Feb 25 2014. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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