Charters Towers budget camp plan under fire

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Charters Towers free camping
Should Charters Towers be more welcoming to grey nomads on a budget?

The idea of offering grey nomads and other visitors a low-cost camping option in Charters Towers has been given short shrift by local caravan park operators.

Like many rural communities, the Queensland town has been wrestling with the pros and cons of possibly providing free or budget-priced camping spots.

The showgrounds have been proposed as a site by some … but park operators like Big4 Aussie Outback Oasis Holiday Park owner, Michael Fletcher, dismissed the prospect, saying the current arrangements were already ‘perfect’.

He said he didn’t believe there would be enough tourists to justify an extra campground and that it would create extra costs for cleaning and maintenance.

“And who’s picking up the bill? The ratepayer? I couldn’t see anybody who would think it’s a good thing,” he told the Townsville Bulletin. “We provide employment to eight local people, and two of those are getting 25-30 hours a week … our wage bills here bring money back into the community.”

However, former Charters Towers City Council councillor Owen Smith said the parks needed to be more positive.

“If we turn our town into an unfriendly town everyone will lose,” he told the Bulletin. “If we are a friendly, welcoming town, the three caravan parks will be full, the showgrounds will be full, and the visitor info will be open seven days.”

Mr Smith said the free camp sites provided at Fletcher Creek and Burdekin River were well patronised but too far out of town to provide significant economic benefits.

Mr Smith also queried the ‘overflow policy’ operated by Charters Towers Regional Council and the caravan parks.

“People must go to a caravan park and be turned away, and they then ring the other two and see if there’s suitable accommodation,” he said.

He said that if there were no campsites at the three parks, travellers could ‘camp’ at the showgrounds for $33 a night — $20 is remitted to the caravan park and $13 goes to council.

“I think it is absolutely disgusting and the price is ridiculous,” he said.

“What we are looking for is to open the showgrounds to low-cost camping for the motoring public who don’t want to stay in the caravan parks with their jumping castles. These are retirees on a budget and they don’t want to pay $30 a night.”

Mr Smith said the council was being too negative and caravan parks were like a protected industry and that the situation was hurting other businesses.

Charters Towers Regional Council declined to comment on the issue.

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35 Responses to Charters Towers budget camp plan under fire

  1. $30 per night, that is ridiculous, $20 going to the CP, when we come that way in the near future we will bypass , if your businesses fall down then blame no one except greed

    • I agree Dianne, charters Towers will never have our trye prints on their roads i will go somewhere else to stay and spend my money. Where we are welcome

  2. People will stay where their budget allows. If the showground isn’t open they won’t say oh well , we’ll stay at the caravan parks , they’ll go to another town that is offering cheaper sites. I haven’t gotten to that stage yet but have spoken to many on our travels who have. Closing cheap sites doesn’t mean they will stay in Caravan parks

  3. If you have a free camp 20 K from town all the small businesses lose out because of the misconception that if there is no option people will use the caravan park NO they won’t they will drive past stay at the free camp and spend their money in the next town

  4. Owen Smith is correct, the caravan parks need to be more positve and offer travellers what they want at an affordable price or we will just go stay at the next affordable place and spend our dollars there. The CMCA has a scheme ‘ Dollar wise parks’ where members can stay in caravan parks for $10 per night, 2 people, and it is surprising the number of parks that are offering in this scheme, yes, some offer limited facilities but that is ok, just proves to me that some park owners ” do get it”
    Also, park owners need to look at the example of Julia Creek in Queensland where the caravan park AND the free camp co-exist, YES, I know they have the same owners, but it does show that there is a place for both even in a very small community that relies on visitors. We spent last September as camp hosts at Julia Creek, and often the caravan park would have more patrons than the free camp, so please dont tell me it cant work. It is about offering what is needed and charging a fair price for the facilities used.
    Maybe the head people at Caravanning Queensland need to get out to Julia Creek and take lessons on how to run a very successful caravan park with a free camp 1.5km away.

    • Well said Bryan, We too were camp hosts at Julia Creek & it all works extremely well, there are always people that will only stay in Caravan Parks….wake up Charters Towers.

  5. We stayed there in 2016 and paid $33 a night and had to stay in the front car park for one night. No discount. Will never go back.

  6. LOL How often do we hear this story. When will they ever learn that the bigger you grow the pie the more there is for everybody. By growing tourism everybody benefits. I live in Bundaberg region and we went through the same arguments for years until a progressive council bit the bullet and guess what the caravan parks have not suffered. The benefits economically and reputation wise have been immense. Have a look at this story from a council site The story is a bit dated now and the figures would be even better. Towns that embrace RV Tourism in all its forms are the ones that are benefitting.

  7. Our experience,we went to low cost caravan park in the outer suburb of Mackay, inner city Rockhampton, Julia Creek each instant we stayed maximum time to explore the surrounding area, and enjoy shopping after being outback. Charters Towers, we took a quick look In less than half a day, to enable us to get to a free or affordable camp. That’s the difference

  8. Always stay at the roadhouse further out of town, only twice have we gone into town and stayed at two different parks. Didnt think they were up to the standard the price suggested. Dont spend any of our money in town now as dont unhook. Bad luck for charters towers good for roadhouse

  9. Towns all over Australia are providing cheaper camping options for those who want them. They are doing it because it brings an additional travelling market to the town….and is paying off. At Bingara (NSW) a local coffee shop and bakery both told us without the town’s freecamping nearby, they would shut their doors due to loss of trade. That town provides a water dispensing unit which charges something like $3 for a couple of hundred litres. So the travellers are not using a local resource without paying.

    We don’t mind paying a fee for camping….just not the huge fees charged by caravan parks.

  10. Not all grey nomads are flush with funds, our situation where Mr is 2 yrs older than me see him eligible for pension in 2020 but me not till 2023. We will be travelling from next year but on a very small weekly budget. Expensive parks will not be an option for us.

  11. I’ve already marked Charters Towers as a day trip only for this very reason. Won’t be staying in town, and will only spend money on the attractions. No other business (eg supermarket, fuel stations) will benefit.

  12. We are currently parked at Barcaldine along with another 1000 or more vehicles ,you cant tell me that grey nomads and friends dont contribute to the local economy ,just that Charters Waters will miss out

  13. Due to the negative and selfish attitude that is supported by the council Charters Towers will not become an RV Friendly Town. The losers are all the other local businesses! Listen to what the tourists are saying!!!

  14. My working life in Human Resources has taught me a valuable lesson, and that applies to the CP operators as well as the travellers and the councils in these areas, that lesson is to remove the emotion from these conversations. As a semi-retired traveller for some 10 years and an avid caravaner for 50+ years we have only ever free camped for 2 nights in all that time. But that is our choice, what the CP operators and councils have to understand is that not everyone wants to stay in CP and if you do not offer a reasonable place for the self-sufficient caravaners to stay then they will by-pass your town, and the only people that lose out are the ratepayers. Can these dinosaurs not sit down and discuss these options in a reasonable respectful manner and remove the emotion and apply general business logic to this conversation, do that and everyone wins.

  15. Michael Fletcher is out of touch. Showgrounds do provide camping with power and hot showers and being a Showgrounds your pets can stay too.
    Canungra Showgrounds Inland of the Gold Coast is over $30 per night but coastal parks are more expensive. I do not any of the fancy attractions, most Showgrounds around $20 power and showers. Councils already have them. Around Brisbane, Lawnton, Dayboro, Caboolture.
    Northern Nsw, Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby. But we stayed at Coffs Harbour Showgrounds some years ago for around 10 nights with our pets with power and hot showers, next door was a private caravan park and there a quite a few caravan parks in Coffs Harbour but some caravan parks are anti-pet. Most have onsite managers (Grey nomads) who collect the site fees. The amenities can be done by Council and the lawn. Otherwise the couple collecting the site fees could clean the amenities in exchange for a small wage as well or better still give them a woolies/Coles gift card per fortnight. The Showgrounds lawns are already managed by someone. Maryborough Showgrounds have a 2 night Policy due to complaints from Caravan Parks which most are anti-pet which limits your choice. Maximum stays are usually 2 to 3 weeks. Most free rest areas have 72 hrs when they are less you seem to just move on.
    I like the 72hrs rest areas, even a 7 day stay at Showgrounds would be good. The only time Showgrounds are closed are when hen Events are on.

  16. We stayed at Gin Gin Showgrounds a couple of years ago it has hot showers and power for $20 per night maximum 2 week stay but if your car is being fixed they will accommodate you. The caretakers were lovely as there were 3 of us bunkered down, 2 of us getting Auto Transmission fixed and a 4WD at the panelbeaters for Roo damage.

  17. Must agree with everything previously said.

  18. We live near charters towers and the council is anti free camps in most of the small towns near them.

  19. Have not been there for a few years and dont really need to go back and get ripped off.
    Thrre are plenty of other places with cheaper camping, as a single traveller paying $30/40pn is objectionable.
    $20pn at showgrounds is reasonable.

  20. Myself and 20 friends met at a free camp in Bingara NSW a couple of months ago and a lot are pensioners. We were there for two weeks with permission from the council in their free camp. We kept our receipts and gave them to the information centre of $9000.00. The towns businesses shared our money instead of one caravan park taking the majority of it. Charters Towers has two free camps which are well supported and doesn’t need free in town but a showground at $20 per night maximum (some councils are asking for more now and starting to loose bookings) is required because a very large number of Nomads will not pay the large costs for caravan parks. The towns that are offering the low cost rents and free camping have being doing it tough through the drought and Nomads are helping them out. My address is in Charters Towers but I’m on the road in my caravan full time and loving it but will not go to a caravan park because the costs are way to high as $33.00 per night equals $230 per week which can be more expensive than a one bedroom unit. Our cost of water is less than 40 cents per night and approximately $5.00 per night for power and a lot of us don’t need power because of our solar panels. The show grounds could charge $15.00 per night for water only and no power. Our town could have a lot more people stay and leave their money in town instead of passing through. There is a very large number of Nomads that will only stay at caravan parks so the parks will not loose. The towns that have been listening to the caravan park owners ( which a lot have managers in them) are now providing for lower cost Showgrounds and theirs businesses are doing much better now.

  21. I’m continually gobsmacked by the ignorance and greed of the caravan park operators. They’ll sacrifice every other business in town in some blind belief that if the nomads can’t free camp then they’ll be queuing at their reception desk. All this attitude does is put a black mark against Charters Towers and we’ll avoid it. A town which is dictated to by a small minded greedy CP owner is not a town worth visiting. There are plenty of other welcoming places to go.

  22. Having previously lived in the ‘Towers’ for thirty two years I will have to say that there has never been anything progressive about the local council and as far as the council show ground overflow charge the price is just absurd and just a ripoff for the grey nomads. Shame on you Charters Towers for your treatment of travellers through this historic city.

  23. Why haven’t they trialled the free camp for 6 months. Of course trust would come into the equation and I would hope both sides would honour the 6 monthly agreement. Saying “NO” from the outset is a negative approach and does not inspire a forward thinking community.

  24. We spent 8 months travelling Victoria and free or low cost camped all the way costing $2 per night camp fees, Charters Towers could benefit from a longer turm free or very low cost camp we would like thousands of other Grey Nomads would support the town.

  25. You the caravan parks get 20 dollars for people staying at the show ground ? And you say nomads are stealing from the rate payers.

  26. Don’t tell there’s not some vested interests – fancy giving the C/P’s $20 for nothin, who thought that one up! – what’s wrong with giving it to the Tourist Authority to promote the town. Even better try a trial FREE camp and just reap the rewards for everyone. Even the Parks will benefit from greater tourist traffic.

  27. I can only wonder how many of the caravan park operators are on the council. Clearly the council is following their dictates. Their loss, and there will be a loss, is someone else’s gain.

  28. Mayor and Councillors,
    Charters Towers Council,
    Dear Sir / Madam,
    I read an artical in the Townsville Bullitin about free camping in Charters Towers and would like to point out the benefits of free camping.
    We are Grey Nomads travelling Australia most of the year, we do not stay in Caravan Parks that charge over $22, there are thousands of Grey Nomads like us who do the same, we free camp most of the year but I would like to point out we are not free loaders we give donations or pay camp fees where required, we are Centrelink pensioners and travel on that pension, if we stayed in Caravan Parks we could not afford to travel. We own a second hand Motorhome fully self contained and we don’t need Caravan Parks and don’t consider our selves tourists just Australians travelling Australia.

    There are thousands of other Grey Nomads like us who like us are sick of being called free loaders, we spend money on food, fuel and other things we need, we do not waste money and that allows us to travel and enjoy what we do.

    We were up north but never went to Cairns as there was no affordable accommodation under $22 but went to Babinda free, Mareeba Rodeo ground and other places where low cost camping is and we were made to feel welcome. Cities like Geraldton WA, Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Maryborough QLD all have free camps and there are towns all over Australia reaping the Benefits by having free or low cost camps.
    We were in Victoria for 8 months or more at a cost of $2 per night camp fees over Christmas, we stayed a month in Colac on the lake totally free, other towns like Ararat, Hoptourne, Casterton, Timboon just to name a few, all have free or donation long term camping, Ararats’ Green Hill Lake up to 1,200 Grey Nomads stay there over summer and Council told me it is worth over $100 per night per Caravan or Motorhome per night, they toilets, showers and water taps for a donation.
    If we stay in a Caravan park we don’t want caravan parks that charge over $22 or more and change more just because they think it’s peak season, it’s not our fault if they spend thousands on their parks, why should we have to pay for things we don’t need.
    The modern Motorhome or Caravan doesn’t need Caravan Parks these days as we are fully self contained, all we need is somewhere to park with rubbish bins, water tap and dump point somewhere in the town.

    There are thousands of Grey Nomads who have sold their home paid off the mortgage bought a caravan or Motorhome and live on the road full time living on Centrelink pensions.

    Over seas backpackers who hire campervans are another issue they are not all self contained but spend money on food, fuel and other things also, we are told Australia needs them and if so need to be catered for as they can’t afford the Caravan parks either and if we force them into parks they won’t come and thousands jobs will go from hire companies that provide these campers and cars.

    If the Grey Nomads can’t free or very low cost camp and they stop travelling look what it would do to the Caravan industry Jayco alone employs 1,400 people, Avida and many others would fold. According to Government figures Grey Nomads are worth around $6 Billion to the economy and the Caravan Motorhome manufacturing industry is worth $21 Billion.

  29. Oh well, just another town to bypass. Supermarkets and fuel stations get bypassed as well.

  30. This situation is becoming out of control. As far as I know Council do open the the Charters Towers Show Grounds to travellers when all of the Caravan Parks are full. The Council Maintained Free sites see a lot of use and are located within easy travel, bitumen road to the City. Visitors to our City need to realise that the Showgrounds are not Vacant all year, in fact they receive the most use between May and September with Country Music festivals, Expos, our Rural Show and other pre-booked events being held there which is also the peak time that RV’s and Caravan Visitors are in the highest numbers and requiring sites. Would the travelling visitors be prepared to vacate the when these events are happening, I think not. While on this subject, the amount of Caravans and RV’s parking up for the night or days on Truck pads, private land, these areas are not for you. If the litter(rubbish,toilet paper, food scrapes are anything to go by perhaps some of these Visitors? should not be welcomed

  31. There are quite a few farmstays/properties who welcome visitors but the downside is roads are rarely maintained from one year to the next and sometimes not graded for many years. This makes access difficult for vans; which is a pity because this would be a solution, plenty of operators outside of the town precinct who don’t seem to rate a mention.

  32. Charters Towers isnt against free camping, as mentioned there are 2 free camps and 2 low cost camps along with 3 caravan parks all within the Charters Towers region. The council already maintain the two free camps in the area providing bins, clean amenities and water when its scarse, I dont think any of the rate payers in town would like to see a further rate increase to cover the extra charges of yet ANOTHER free camp in town. My belief on the overflow policy is that the council receive $20 and the caravan parks receive a $10 admin charge to cover their time and merchant fees to process the payment. As mentioned in an above comment the tourist season is also a busy time for the show grounds which are used for many other regular events in town and these regular events would cause many disruptions to those travelling through and want to stay for a few days. Its very easy to blame the caravan park owner/operators in this case but surely the decision is not completely up to them, I am sure the rate payers of the town would also object to their rates increasing to subsidise ANOTHER free or low cost camping because someone has to pay for it. Being a rate payer currently living in Charters Towers I know I wouldnt be happy, the rates are already high enough here.
    Like everything in life you have to pay for convenience, if you want to free camp you need to travel 20klm, if your happy to pay you can stay in town. Its the same in the majority of our towns in Australia.

  33. The free camps are in the Charters Towers council area but some 20km outside of the city itself.

    And believe me this is not the “majority of towns in Australia”. Even Logan City south of Brisbane is actively growing the number of real free camps in its region. Mind you Brisbane and Gold Coast don’t want caravanners at all.

    We stopped in CT earlier in the week, but only for fuel (thanks Puma, cheapest again plus 4c/litre RACQ discount) and stocked up at Woolies before a stint at Normanton campdraft/rodeo.

    If you look at the last five years comments on Wikicamps regarding Charters towers I can count the positive ones on one hand. All the rest say “avoid the town because of the expensive CPs and show ground” and lack of free camping in town limits. At the moment we are in Richmond. It has a Town based free camp – five bucks for three nights.

    It is a pity, because talking to the store owners in CT, they need all the help they can get, plus they are very civic minded and I bet they are unaware of the free camp lack situations and Wikicamps comments and the harm it causes to their businesses.

    We didn’t use the $5 voucher for food/coffee at the place near the zebra crossing because we had to hoof it to a local station whose owner had invited us to stay over. We had met on the road some two hours earlier.

    Anyway for us CT is only good for cheap juice, and supermarket food at city prices.

    Maybe it will be fixed but while folks are actively discouraging other folks from visiting small businesses in CT will suffer.

    Look at all the comments above…

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