Time to settle roadside rest debate once and for all?

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roadside camping
To rest or not to rest, that is the question. PIC: ABC

When does a tired traveller ‘resting’ by the roadside become a tired traveller ‘camping’ by the roadside?

It’s an age-old debate which sharply divides opinion. While many grey nomads insist it is a matter of basic commonsense that they should be able to take a decent break when they feel unable to safely drive on, some local authorities feel there could be those who ‘take advantage’ by seeking to save on the cost of a night’s accommodation.

There may never be a definitive ruling that covers all possible circumstances and eventualities, but one long-distance traveller who was slapped with a fine for ‘resting’ by the roadside is very disappointed that he has not been given a chance to test the matter in court.

Michael Harvey from Melbourne was initially issued with a $100 infringement notice from the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley for sleeping in his van by the side of the road in Western Australia’s north back in August.

Mr Harvey, who regularly travels regional Australia building custom-made orthotics, was angered by the fine and argued he was only resting in Kununurra to avoid driver fatigue. He quickly announced he was prepared to challenge the fine in court.

However, the council decided late last month that the matter would not be taken any further because the wording of the offence could be open to interpretation under current relevant legislation.

While Mr Harvey was happy he would not have to pay the fine, he told the ABC he would still have preferred to have taken the matter to court.

“I didn’t appeal to the council, I wrote a letter asking for the matter to be heard in a court of law,” he said. “The matter could then have set a precedent to stop this happening again.”

Mr Harvey is now calling for a uniform approach to roadside camping, starting with a national definition of what roadside camping is, saying travellers need to have the right to be able to park on the side of the road if they are tired.

“My understanding is that you have the right to rest up to 24 hours on the side of the road, but when you’re camping you’re actually putting out a chair or a barbecue,” he told the ABC. “But each council seems to be making up their own rules … if you have a national law or a definition that is implemented in each state, that would solve the problem.”

While may grey nomads will be encouraged by the council’s decision not to enforce the fine, not everyone is happy. Kununurra caravan park operator Lee Irvin told the ABC she was disappointed the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley did not stand its ground.

“He was within the town boundary. It is a state legislation, not a local law,” she said. “What’s the difference between resting at midnight and camping … I believe this is setting a precedent for the travelling public to argue that they are resting as opposed to camping.”

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29 Responses to Time to settle roadside rest debate once and for all?

  1. Maybe cp owner would have different opinion if a semi or B double pulled up in drive way for rest. Beside which they are never open at night. Setvice I don’t think so

  2. Another whinging caravan park owner that we defiantly won’t be stopping at Lee Irvin that’s for shore. And you will know we are not stopping when we pull up out the front ,give a couple of toots on the horn and drive away, just so you know !!!

  3. No wonder why some c.p operators aren’t winning many friends with a comment like that. Everyone is legally allowed to rest if fatigued or not. There are signs all over the country telling you to rest. If a resident of a town wishes to leave their house drive 5 km and rest in their vehicle in a safe location off the road who is tell them that is not allowed.

    What is better for all, rested alert drivers or tired dangerous drivers?
    If some ranger really wants to feel important and push people out rest stops record their name, position, date time place , rego and tell them if you have an accident they can be held liable for not allowing you to rest and knowing you are fatigued and are back on the road

  4. And right there is the reason I do not/will not stop in Kununurra. I would like to know IF the said caravan park is open for business at midnight as stated by the owner???? Sorry but on saftey grounds no one should be charged for RESTING on the side of the road, and while resting you have a couple of beers even restricts you from driveing any further!

  5. Mr Irwin really doesnt care for the road toll, or the public safety just his hip pocket.I said in the last post on this subject that I could not see what people saw in Kununurra anyway.But there,s another reason to bypass it especially Mr Lee Irwins caravan park I know we will. Stevo.

  6. This Lee Irvin is protecting her own interests, as do all caravan park owners who feel threatened by free campers. However, in this case she is wrong. It is totally irresponsible of her to put her financial interests ahead of traveller safety.

  7. Looking at it from both sides of the story, it does seem strange that anyone would want to travel after 4-5pm and certainly not at midnight, when any caravan park will be closed. Even the owners/managers need rest!

    • Best time to travel is night. Less cars = less chance of accident. No heat no glaring sun put the lights on high beam and enjoy the peace of night. Sure there are roos and cattle drive steady with bright lights and you will be OK.

    • I will travel at any time of day or night. I believe I do not even have to justify my trip/time to police, although I would if asked. As for 5pm, it does not get dark until 9:30 pm in some parts pf Australia in the summertime. It is getting so regulated that I will soon need permission to make a cup of coffee if I am within 10 km of a cafe/coffee shop. Perhaps someone needs also to aquaint themselves with the laws reguarding Australian Natives and “walkabout:.

  8. I think the caravan park industry in Australia needs to take a lo g hard look at it self. Historically caravan and camping used to be an inexpensive alternative to travel or have a holiday, this is no longer the case with the fees currently being charged by said group. No wonder people are seeking alternatives. But more to the point, why should these owners have any imput over the behaviour of local councils and any fines they issue. I also think there should be a country wide resolution to the difference between camping and resting, so travellers know where they stand and there is no ambiguity in interpretation of the the difference.

  9. The regulations are becoming stifling. Can I make a sandwich in my motorhome with my own home baked bread if I an less than 379•5 meters from a sandwich shop that is closed?
    The caravan parks charge more per night for DIRT, no power,no lawn, than my border pays for a room. $220 pw $31 per night… and I have to supply kitchen, power, water, bedding tv gas etc.
    $48 a night in Hidden Valley Darwin, $34 in Gday mate Alice Springs, Huskisson NSW $$$.
    The caravan parks want $40 a night but don’t care about the cafe, RSL club, hotel etc. As long as they have the Gestapo on their side they are a law umto themselves.

    • I refuse to pay$40 or more to park my van in a park with dirty showers/toilets , no hot water and poor tv reception, $35 is plenty

  10. Just a side issue the caravan parks association of Qld are in court now against the Rockhampton Council re the Kershaw gardens camp. From the media the council put forward that the people who use the camp are travelers not tourists. Watch this space if the association wins and comes after other councils.

  11. Kununurra is a nice place. Lee is just an old grump. She’s been like that for a long time. And I would not rely on her hospitality at the best of times, but midnight sounds just alright. Give it go next time.

  12. I won’t pay $40 poor tv reception, unclean toilet/ shower blocks $35 is plenty

  13. My husband got a fine for parking his bus outside a caravan park in Kununurra. He was waiting for another van to vacate the cp (that day) so he could move into that spot. Ranger would not listen & fined him. He did not pay the fine. This was 10yrs ago.

    • Well done. I wouldn’t pay that fine either. Sounds like Kununurra isn’t trying to welcome visitors

      • I would stop in Kununurra again they don’t want tourists, twice bitten

    • We were in Kununura earlier this year and caravans were wiring up at 10 am to get I to caravan parks. Many couldn’t get in. What is this park owner thinking of doing with the late arrivals? They certainly would t have room for them.

  14. The rangers must must be getting a percentage of his pay from the caravan parks.
    When we were in Kununnara 4 years ago i saw the ranger at 8 Am with book in hand going in for the kill on a large motor home parked across from the main town by the lake. It was show week and their was no camping at the showground.

  15. Kununurra welcomes all who want to visit our beautiful town and surrounds. The problem that has been happening is that many who decide to rest/camp/be by the side of the road also toilet and leave toilet paper and rubbish in public places. This is a problem. Washing hanging between trees in the parks also happens, washing dishes in the lake. It has all happened. Often. As a long term resident who pays rates the Rangers are trying to balance the needs of the town and residents with the needs of those who visit. There are those who ‘extend’ their stay in the parks and on the sides on the roads and are obviously camping and not contributing to the economy of the town. These long term campers really need to be moved along – so what is the time limit. One night….two and where? At that location or within the town? I have known some to move from parking bay to parking bay on a nightly basis all in the town limits for up to 2 weeks. As you can see – it is time for this issue to be discussed respectfully as there are always two sides to the story.

  16. Maybe it’s time caravan and car combinations have to fill out a driving log book to record driving times and rest periods to prove there point

  17. I have a form to say I am tired or otherwise incapacitated and cannot drive any further for that day. It has provision for a signature from whoever is trying to move you on. This then puts the onus onto them.

  18. i think every one should pull up at midnight wake up the caravan park owner and enquire about the price oh sorry too dear i will move on thanks bye ( ps do this just as you are leaving town just saying )

  19. It is law that truck drivers pull up and rest after a set hours of driving time and rest for a set time. Why are RV drivers different?

  20. Why can’t people just plan their trips instead of just winging it and hoping for the best. Plan your trips and fatigue doesn’t become a factor and you don’t leave yourself open to being caught in this kind of situation. Seems we are becoming a nation of people who see their problems as everybody elses fault but their own.

    • Fatigue is always a factor on the road. Can happen anytime anywhere to anyone no matter how much planning and organising someone does.

  21. We have traveled around Australia for over 6 years now My suggestion is that if councils want to fix this “rest stop” problem then they should do the following.
    For the Whiz bank “non self contained” travelers a plot of land close to town should be sought and a manager employed to take a fee of say $10.00 per vehicle. They should be able to pay $2.00 for showers and $3.00 for washing and give them access to limited Wifi. This will get them away from the parks etc. As for Self contained vehicles again provide a large flat area close to town and charge $5.00 per van. No toilets or showers needed. The manager,probably a retiree, could put on a happy hour and keep all the takings as a wage. Everyone wins, travelers, council and locals and local businesses.

    • Let’s face it, councils and governments have failed on this issue.
      Blurred legalities, difference between states and council boundaries.
      What a damning indictment on our multi billion dollar industry, camping.
      It’s even worse as we are a walkabout nation.
      There are so many possibilities to be creative in this space.
      A few examples:
      A special license for self contained highly skilled campers that allow them to stop anywhere short term.
      Free camping in return for rubbish removal and free camp site maintenance and discipline.
      Use of council car parks and spaces during the weekend for a minimal fee.
      Supermarket use like the US Walmart idea for a minimal fee overnight and short term only.
      Spend and save idea of a $10 docket entitles you to stay in a city or town max three nights.
      Use of State forests by licensed highly skilled professional campers.
      Craft and arts permits for professional travelers who provide weekend activities in exchange for free camping.
      Council run camping rallies using showgrounds, council car parks, etc.
      There are so many ways to leverage benefits for campers and governments.
      This government hasn’t even got a minister for science…

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