‘Councils damned if they do … damned if they don’t’

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Tassie free camping
Will less free camping mean less visitors enjoying places like Cradle Mountain? PIC: Tourism Tasmania

The free camping situation in Tasmania is becoming confusing … to nearly everybody. Here, Dr Katrena Stephenson, the Chief Executive Officer of the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) gives her take on what the latest Government rulings might mean.

Tourism is a significant sector within Tasmania’s economy and evidence suggests that recreational vehicle (RV) tourists make an important contribution to the economy, particularly in regional and remote areas.

What is less well known is that councils supplying caravan and camping services must do so in accordance with competitive neutrality principles as set out under the Australian Government’s National Competition Policy (NCP).  The goal of NCP is to ensure that all government bodies, including councils, who are involved in significant business activities compete on fair and equal terms with private sector businesses, where it is in the public benefit to do so.

The Policy Statement, recently released by the Tasmanian Government, predominantly provides a codification of the general approach that the Economic Regulator has already been applying to all the recent complaints. There are however some useful improvements that have been made including: confirming a threshold of 10% of the market within a 60-kilometre drive for determining significant business activity; and also allowing councils to get a Ministerial Statement confirming a public benefit to not applying full cost attribution.

If a council is providing free or below cost public camping above the 10% market share threshold, the council can either choose to apply full cost attribution pricing principles, or conduct a public benefit assessment. In some cases councils may consider ceasing to provide free or low cost public camping, although we are not aware of any that are currently considering this.

Local Government recognises the importance of competitive neutrality – we don’t want to compete with local businesses that provide jobs and services in our community. But many councils are under pressure to meet a demand and fill gaps in this space. Councils are ‘damned if they do’ by caravan park operators and ‘damned if they don’t’ by RV users and the local community.

LGAT’s position is that updating the policy statement for public camping does not address a number of the key causes of the issue. Importantly there is a lack of understanding around the demand and supply of low cost (and commercial) camping in Tasmania and we have asked the Tasmanian Government to consider looking at this to better inform future policy.

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8 Responses to ‘Councils damned if they do … damned if they don’t’

  1. Yes; less free camping options will mean less visitors, significantly less. Let’s not forget the 60ks in tassie is a long way, most towns are nearly always less than 60ks apart, so I genuinely believe that a great number of free camps will close as councils will not spend money to mount business cases to support free camps in their area.

  2. Tassie will just miss out on visitors. Plain and simple

  3. We are very glad that we visited Tassie some 6 – 7 years ago. There was none of this current rhetoric around at the time. Would like to revisit, but under the current camping issues, we will notspend our $$$ on the boat trip and other attactions.
    We contributed over $8000 to the Tassie economy in the 9 weeks we toured the Island.

  4. I am so glad we only have less than one month left of our seven month trip to Tassie otherwise our expenses would sky rocket. Over this period we have spent nearly $600 on low cost camping eg recreational parks, $10 a night camps. Imagine if we have to spent say $30 a night to date that would have cost $6000. That is say $5000 not spent in cafes, bakeries, fuel, tourist attractions. To date we have spent over $17,000 in Tassie. Under the new proposal that is about 30% of our budget just on accommodation. This $17,000 does not include the $1982 spent to bring the car and caravan over to Tassie. We love Tassie but an extra say $5000 in accommodation would definitely blow the budget and stop the tourist attraction visits, the eating out etc

  5. I know people who live in Tassie, The message I get from them is that the state will suffer, their are towns that rely on the influx of grey nomads camping in or neat their towns.
    When we were their 2 years ago , one of the shop keepers in Sheffield was going off about the charged that was applied to the camp at the sports ground. Her comment was ” it will take money of them”.
    The powers to be in Tassie need to do a rethink ” now rather than latter” before it is too late.

  6. We have just spent a wonderful 4 months in Tasmania and like many paid nearly $2000 to get our car and van over but did not mind as we were advised by many travelers on the mainland that the free and low cost camping would go towards covering some of that. I understand the governments stance on this but wonder did anyone jump up and down when caravan parks started putting in cabins and the effect that had on motels and other forms of accomodation. Price gouging runs rampet on the mainland with caravan parks charging whatever they want in busy periods and hope this does not happen in Tasmania. There are two totally different markets with Rv users ones that will avoid cp’s and one that go away a few weeks a year and use cp’s. Maybe the caravan parks should look to see what they can do to attract a different market as we paid a lot of money to be self sufficient and don’t need power, amenities jumping castles and being so cramped in that awnings almost touch. Tasmania is a magnificent state and we hope to visit again in future so will follow closely to see if the government will give in to a vocal minority or look after all businesses that benefit from the travelling community

  7. As a family of four, Tasmania was a place we wanted to visit on our lap. It cost us just under $3500 return for car, caravan and four birth cabin each way. We have been quoted between $30 a night to over $60 a night for a powered site in a van park, plus then $1 for a 4 minute shower at some places. . No jumping pillows, no playgrounds, nothing extra for the kids but still charging silly $$ for them. Free, donation and low cost camping means we do tours, we support local golf clubs by staying at them, we spent money on going out for dinner or lunch – things we would not do if we payed $50 + per night in a CP.
    We will have been here for 17 weeks by the time we leave. We have a budget of between $1000 and $1200 per week. Imagine if we spent $350 a week minimum on a CP, plus $300 a week on food, plus $150 a week on fuel…not much left to put towards insurance, activities, phone/internet costs etc.

  8. Tassie roads need an overhaul to cater for all the traffic that is now running on it due to its popularity. Many free sites without loos are littered with faeces and loo paper. Much needs tone done to accommodate free campers and rvs. Keep the state clean and safe.

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