Caravan parks group asks courts to end free camping

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Free camping at Kershaw Gardens
All change? Not everyone is happy with the free camping area at Kershaw Gardens. PIC: Shayla Bulloch/Morning Bulletin

The bitter fight over free camping in the Queensland town of Rockhampton is about to move into the courts.

The Caravan Parks Association of Queensland Limited (CPAOQL) has long been upset by the impact of free camping at Kershaw Gardens … and it has now launched legal action against Rockhampton Regional Council and the State Government.

The organisation filed an application on December 11 claiming the camping area was “unlawful use” of the land and requested a Material Change of Use of the 2.18 hectare on Moores Creek Road.

The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin reports that, since it opened in 2014, the large free camping ground has been a hive for travellers passing through the city.

The Caravan Parks Association of Queensland says the Kershaw Gardens camp ground is “detrimentally impacting” its members” and impacting visitor numbers in both peak and off season.

Over the three years since opening, it is claimed that caravan park owners have written to the council and State Government numerous times raising concerns … but have received no assurances that the free camping would stop.

The Caravan Parks Association of Queensland says the council should now take steps to reinstate the land to its original glory, and put up signs warning travellers that free camping would no longer be permitted.

The Chief Executive of Queensland Tourism Industry, Daniel Gschwind, told the Morning Bulletin that it was up to the courts to decide the outcome.

“The application challenges the use of this council land for camping and asserts that it is incompatible with the current, legal land use provisions,” he said. “It is entirely within the rights of the applicants to seek clarification.”

Rockhampton Regional Council CEO Evan Pardon told the Bulletin it would be inappropriate to comment.

“Given that the matter is currently before the courts, council is not in a position to comment,” he said.

In other parts of the country, decisions to close free camping areas have sparked a negative backlash for grey nomads and other travellers.

The case will be in the Brisbane Planning and Environment Court on February 1, 2018.

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72 Responses to Caravan parks group asks courts to end free camping

  1. Browsed the websites of 3 “Caravan” Parks in Rockhampton:
    Southside Holiday Village: Website home page advertises Chalets, Tropical Villas, Villas and Cabins. No mention of caravan sites.
    Discovery Parks: Website Home Page Advertises as a children’s park, cabins and one tent site.
    Riverside Tourist Park: Website is a booking agent. Unpowered sites are $30, powered sites are $35 and what is wrong with that scenario??
    Also the usual cabins and villas.
    These Parks are not even thinking about why people will free camp with their self contained rigs. A five dollar difference between powered and un powered site says it all.
    Most free campers are generally staying over one or two nights not two weeks.
    Any caravan park today that has a couple of spare acres will do well to convert the area into a “free” camping area for self contained rigs. Even a charge of $10 per night will augur well for the traveller just looking for a spot to pull up for the night. Stop the fight, start thinking outside the square and everyone will benefit from some genuine collaboration.

    • Absolutely correct. Right behind you.

      • Well said Karen caravanparks seem to forget all their cabins are competition to other accommodation facilities but that obviously in their opinion is ok. Work with the travelling public not against we all win.

      • Well said Karen caravanparks seem to forget all their cabins are competition to other accommodation facilities but that obviously in their opinion is ok. Work with the travelling public not against we all win.

    • Try getting a powered site at Bright (Vic) in peak times for less than $60, and some parks have a minimum 3 night stay. No wonder free sites fill up first.

    • Simple just avoid the area and take the $ elsewhere, I know we will be.

    • being an ex rocky person nothing wrong with the free camping as the caravaners are only there in the winter months. Good to see and when we come back will be staying at kershaw gardens. It the parks cannot make enough money during peak times than too bad so sad. get stuck into the resort owners, motels and pubs offering cabins, rooms and a feed. this is old news as this happens with regular monotony and the “association” has a personal vandetta in any case. Its a case of personalities and political bastardry by those with hidden agendas.

      • Most of the campers are too large for the parks any way there is room for all in Rocky. Its about choices and the right to choose where we want to stay. During the winter months the parks are full any way and free camping is not for every one like wise caravan parks. I support local community groups, showgrounds and the like and free camp where ever possible because its right for us

    • I couldn’t agree more with the above. As a self contained motorhome owner / traveler, we will use free or low cost locations in the main. As many do, we look for a reasonable priced CP (under 30$ pn) for a once a fortninght powered site. You are correct, its about time CP’s stopped winging to councils and actually looked at the market / demographic that is available to them.

    • Couldn’t agree more. It’s about time we realised the value of people power..

    • You are so Darn right Robyn. If the Caravan Parks were not so greedy then more would chose to stay and for longer periods. We recently stayed at Monduran Dam Holiday Park. Our powered site was $39/night, Camp sites (no power or water) were $37/night – go figure!!

  2. Well here we go again…..another argument between two immovable forces( mainly in favour of the Gods of the almighty $$$$$, the ( CPO’s) Caravan Park Owners.

    Travelling solo I always find the average minimum rate of $35.00 p/n rate a fair whack out of my lowly single aged pension for an overnite stay.

    The needs of the many should out weigh the wants of a few. The way the Park owners are reacting it leaves anyone to be mistaken in thinking the Caravan Parks are left empty.

    However as a continual traveller I have found (in the majority of cases) the opposite. Unless you book ahead you’ll be lucky to be allocated a space in the ‘overflow’ bay. Even with free camping near by!

    Plus a BIG WIN to the towns that offer free camping, us caravanners can be seen stocking up in the towns where they offer this free camp as a way of “paying it forward” to the local communities…..

    In regards to ‘free camping sites’ dying a slow death… I say this to the courts: It’s a Win Win situation for both the travellers and the many small country towns to encourage the almighty tourist $$$$$’s where ever they can get it!

    • Again, someone who knows what they are talking about. Perfectly correct.

  3. If it closes i wont be stopping in rockhaptom parks i will drive through the town.

    • Neither will I or thousands of other travellers. Cutting their noses off to spite their faces.

    • Ditto, I will bypass Rockhamton spend my money in towns that accommodate the self contained traveler.

      • Mount Morgan is nearby, economical, friendly and a decent experience. An easy drive to Rocky if you have to go to ‘town’.

  4. Very simple solution to the dilemma.
    We did it to ROMA , have never been back.
    Take a look at longreach, classic point in question.
    When they loose the tourist $$$$$$$
    You watch the PIG SQUIRLING caravan park owners then start DEMANDING That council do something about getting the tourist $$$ to stop.

    • Right on the money. Park owners speaking for the town and businesses. Wrong wrong wrong. Greed is a sickness.

      • You say greed is a sickness, so is being a ‘tight a**”. Why is it you all want everything for nothing. What a miserable life some people lead!

        • After 18 months of thinking of doing the Grey Nomad ‘thing’ we have decided to forget the whole idea. There are too many rip offs and seemingly over abused/crowded/ places to see. Work out the finances its common sense to see that its cheaper to spend a few grand every few months and do things in style. Free camp sites loaded up with grubs who crap in the bush/side paths/ anywhere, parks who charge too much, local thugs stealing ect. The cost and depreciation of the van and vehicle are horrendous . No thanks.

  5. I agree with Mr King and not only that, there are quiet a few of us older nomads that have not got dementia yet and we can still remember getting told to ,move on as the mining boom has us covered and we dont need whinging old farts or there money. Like Mr King said bypass Rocky it is a far better run north going up through clermont in land and a bloody site more friendly and appreciative towns. Cheers Stevo.

  6. Most of the parks in Rockhampton put in cabins to cash in on the mining boom. Now that that’s finished they’re feeling the pinch and squealing about all the tourist dollars they are missing out on.
    Best way to deal with greedy park owners is drive on past, we do for Rocky and Mackay because their attitude during the mining boom. Won’t even buy fuel in these towns.
    We usually only freedom camp for overnighters and will always seek out reasonably priced parks for longer stays.

    • That is exactly what I do. You can add Bowen to that list,very unfriendly town. I have been avoiding them for 10 years. And advising others.

  7. Maybe Motels should take the CVPAQ to court about cabins in CVP.


    • I agree with your thinking.

  8. Who cares all it means we will never stop at Rockhampton again, they never had freedom campers staying at the overpriced parks anyway get a grip..

  9. The caravan parks should stop thinking of themselves and think of the other businesses in the town. As a traveller I will bypass these places as well. I visit small low cost to free stops and I spend money stop the short mindness

  10. We have $10 a night at a football club showers only .the caravan park complained to council now people drive straight through money lost to town typical sceario

  11. I won’t stop at or buy provisions in any town that bans free camping.

  12. What’s happened to treason of choice ?
    I free camp and stay at caravan parks when and where needed
    But like all free campers we drive thru a lot of towns because of the Ned Kelly owners / franchise people who ran the parks . What happens to the small shop owners when a Woolworths or Coles come to town
    Free camping brings $$$$$ to the town to multi shop owners not greedy c/ park managers

  13. We will not stop or spend money in towns or location which ban Free Camping

  14. No they may free camp, but they do BRING DOLLARS INto the town,, very foolish and and word will spread like wildfire and people will by pass the town,, big loss to businesses and have they had a say .. probably .not

  15. We to say goodby. They just don’t get it. The numbers speak for themselves.The tens of millions lossed. All from greedy CVP’s.
    We feel sorry for the family owned businesses/ operated by family members around the town.
    How do these operators of the parks Justify the fees asked.

  16. Avoid greedy parks that jack prices for long weekends and public holidays. Power costs dont increase. As for minimum nights, avoid at all cost. Greed is a sicknees, true. Motel owners should challenge councils re the number of cabins, in prime poistion, allowd in parks as sites diminish. Free camp towns have our support.

  17. Dont worry Ladies and Gentelmen free or near on free camping is here to stay. The caravan parks have had it too good for too long, changing pricing to suit school holidays and public holidays

  18. I will not stay in your caravan parks & I will continue to free camp,but I won’t stay in rocky. Sorry to all the retailers & to the caravan park owners it is STILL a democratic country

  19. Easy choice wipe Rockhampton off your stop list spend your money elsewhere

  20. Mmmmm, well, personally I believe businessess need to adapt to changing operational conditions, if they don’t they will fail. There are plenty of Aussie business icons wiped off the map for failing to adapt. Caravan parks will be no different. Today’s vans are a motel on wheels and have no daily need for a CP or their outdated financial business model of 30 yrs ago.
    Town councils that have foresight to implement camping areas with a dump point and water will find travellers will stop and spend money in town. CPs should not expect the taxpayer to help prop up thier businesses for failing to adapt to changing operational conditions.
    If CPs wish to compete with free camping that would be better for the travelling public. CPs need to provide the traveller with what they need and want and price it accordingly.

  21. Hi i have only been on the road for 2 years, but as i also do pop up shops in shopping centres. i have witnessed the amount of tourists the free camp in rockhampton brings to the stocklands shopping centre. I have also witnesed the lack of campers in gladstone where there is no free camping.
    I believe the caravan parks have out priced themselves and i feel sorry for the retailers and hotels and clubs that will miss out on the business the free campers bring to a town. Why should only a few businesses benefit from travelers when free campers spend there money in many more businesses than just caravan park.
    I am fully self sufficient and always like to pay my way but i have less to spend in towns where the caravan parks are so expensive.

  22. Thing is…. If you stop free camping which covers 24-48hrs only… Park Owners would be incorrect to assume free campers will then go to Caravan Parks. THEY WILL NOT!! They’ll move on… And everyone loses out. How dumb can you get?

  23. Just come back from around Australia WA SA have gone the other way by allowing free camping, the towns have a win win scenario, 2 to 3 days when travelling is all you need.

    • Done the same trip totally agree if the courts see in favour of caravan parks then some one has forgotten the power of public media and who pays there bill

  24. As self funded grey nomad the wife and I are always looking for reasonable priced caravan area or site no frills just clean toilets.
    If not we drive on.

  25. Stick to the west coast. Plenty free camping there. Once you hit the east coast it is all down hill from there.

    • Mate I dont know how much touring you have done in our fantastic big country of ours ,but your comment is a dead giveaway of ” Not Much “as what you have stated is the EXACT OPPOSITE of reality .If you haven’t travelled the whole country ,do not comment on it .

      • To Gary MoseleyI say…. Mate! Mate! Mate! ….. I have driven the entire coastline of this great country of ours on my way around on the BIG LOOP ROAD..and I FULLY agree with Ian…..and in my experience Western Australia offers the best Coastal free camps EVER……….

        Like Ian ….once I hit the QLD coast line it was a case of ‘free camping’ near well known towns being NON EXISTENT!! I can say this with all honesty and knowledge…. Beautiful one day and Perfect the next is true enough, but at what cost….the CPO’s there must think we are all STUPID and willing to pay any price to enjoy the sunshine..a BIG mistake is being made and sorry to say it’s the towns businesses will be the losers!

  26. As a single pensioner i suggest you lower your rates and be more realistic. $30 a night is robbery

  27. On a different note – I’m amazed at the spelling, grammar and punctuation on some of these posts. I guess people have simply been angry and started venting, then hit “Post Comment”.

  28. What does Rockhmpton have to offer the tourist anyway?..seriously, the only real reason to stay in Rockhampton is just to stop over on your way to somewhere else…like inland to central Queensland, or up to Far North Queensland or out to the coast…but Rockhampton itself?…forget it… especially if they dont want us to have a spot to stop over and have a rest and restock before we move on, then I’ll stop somewhere else.
    If they stop a small short stay free camp then lets call it “Rob-hampton”

  29. CQPAOL would do well to remember the name UBER that has upset the Taxi Industry here & in many other countries, this same formula could be applied to their Industry too?, as it is being applied to many others.

    Every Business operator is entitled to a fair profit , but why have so Many BIG Companies descended on buying up Caravan Parks all over the Coastline of our country in recent years. I read recently where one Corporate Group had just paid $14 Million for a Caravan Park in Darwin. It is a proven fact that towns who do welcome travellers with free stopovers, many businesses in the town benefit from their spending not just a Caravan Park .I do feel sorry for the smaller Owner Operators, however we al need to adapt to the times or disappear.

    I remind the Caravan Park Owners to just Remember that word UBER

    • I think AIRBNB would be doing greater damage to their cabin rates already than a few caravan in the park. Then maybe AIRBNB is too big to tackle.

  30. When do you think C|P owners will start taking on board the comments and sentiments of the GN’s? It’s pretty obvious our intentions if they maintain or raise fees. I’ve asked many caravan operators to justify their charges, with many commencing with the power costs, until you mention the meagre difference between power and unpowered sites, shuts them up. If power is the issue, why not like some, meter usage separately. Where we have come across this scenario, our power costs were under $2!! NO, I’m afraid just pure greed.

  31. As a Rockhampton resident but also camper, I wonder why for many years the council had their own park (they still do) but out ofthe blue allowed free camping near the biggest shopping centre in town. Wonder who appears to be getting the kickback while the ratepayers subsidise the caravan park.

  32. Yet another town to avoid on the big lap. Will they ever learn?

  33. My little town has 2 parks ..1 motel and 1 accomodation pub..and the footy grounds opened up 2 years ago…$10pn..going great guns…vans even stop in car park in main street overnight..they spend at the local pub and rsl..everyone happy…I free camp as much as possible myself…will bypass any town that does not support free camping travellers..

  34. Was going to stay at Margaret River last year in self contained motor home for a couple of weeks,.check the wine out and dine. Nowhere to free camp so kept driving, the whole town missed out on our dollars, stayed in a national park and moved on to where we could camp free, this next motorhome friendly community received our dollars and compliments on being smart. Stayed here for one and a half weeks. Cup’s will stuff it up for the whole township, Rockhampton off my list, we travel every year on mainland for six months

  35. everyone in this country should have the rite to free camp !! greedy caravam park owners .you have a job in this country like anyone else if you dont like your pay quit and do something else dont ask the public to give up free camping cos you not happy in your job !!! go get a factory job or something

  36. Guess what will not stay in Rockhampton boycott it we like free camps allows us to spend not money in the township

  37. WOW….I posted the first comment on this subject only a few days ago and the response is OVERWHELMING! Wonderful to hear so much support for free camps around OZ and Dito to the tourist $$$$ we bring.

    As I have been on the ‘BIG LOOP’ road around the coast of this great country of ours so can agree with the comments regarding the WEST… I noticed many more coastal free camps available over there!

    I also noticed in the Camp10 book that as soon as you hit the QLD side of OZ the coastal free camping near all large towns becomes NON existent!!!….Queensland has become too expensive to stop at in Caravan Parks. Make no allowances in $$$$ for the Solo traveller either!! Likewise to other comments… I will boycott and not be stopping to restock at any town that closes free camping…….

  38. We intend to travel next year (2018) if our health holds up so we will be looking at our expenditure like a lot of others and the following comments we will do when in towns that don’t like our business.
    About 3 years ago we stayed at a C/P in Sale Vic for 5 nights was $17/ night + pwr. A $10 deposit for key to power point at the site and refunded when leaving.
    It worked out to $22/night with the $10 refund put towards our power usage. So the question I now ask if they can do it with the local show grounds as competition who is making the huge profit? The park has a constant flow of vans pulling in every day.
    Why can’t all these C/P’s do it or are they trying to pay off the huge loans they may have taken out for all these cabins that are too dear anyway.
    If all of us who have access to the internet contact the local Chamber of Commerce if they have one or Shires and tell them why you won’t stop in their towns.
    Do it in writing and they sometimes will reply and if they don’t tell them you will put the correspondence out there for all to see.
    Unless you write they won’t take notice and advise the shop/ petrol stations on why also
    as their hip pocket will hurt some what. You don’t have to buy anything just a bit of advice as to why you not doing business in their town, then watch the reaction from the complainants when other shops etc complain about the loss of business because of the attitude of a minority group.

    • I AGREE WITH DEREK 100%…. Let’s ALL put our power together (where our mouths are) and show our support and “jam up their email system” with our displeasure of the joint CPO’s fight of our liberty AND their townships right to survive ..

  39. We stayed at Kershaw gardens freeby this year. Great… due to that we ended up spending near $500 at nearby shops, bought dinner etc. had that not been available we would have moved on. Time towns n cities realised free campers do spend money. We sure don’t need much and do not wish to pay over the topCaravan park tariffs

  40. Cant understand how people can think GREED has any thing to do with this.I;’m old enough to remember when C?Ps really had a hard time of it.Then the boom came up went the prices just because they had full sites most nights, Just sayin LOL.Give Rocky a big miss,

  41. Jean Winterfield hit the nail on the head. I have seen evidence that towns that fail to allow free camping in or near their town loose between $500 to $700 per week in lost revenue .It is also a fact that grey nomads and most caravaners spend on average a year over $10,000,000 Australia wide.We in the west travel east and find that tooooo many parks charge way over top for a powered site ,some up to $60 a night,many dont care what they charge or the lack of service they offer,if thats what one can call it. .We are 50/50 ,free camp and use parks to top up water and wash cloths.

    • Check out tourist centres for water top ups, can be less expensive than an expensive park one nighter. When in Bourke, use the local laundry for washing as it’s cheaper than a self serve laundromat and employs quite a few disadvantaged people , plus everything folded neatly for pickup.

  42. I wonder if these park owners are actually aware just how interconnected we all these days, not only do a lot of people trade hints to each other during `happy hour’ about good and bad places to visit, but with things like caravan forums, websites and facebook and the like, bad news travels fast

    And a bad reputation can linger for years, I had a bad park experience in the middle of the Qld mining boom with 3 parks in the one town and I would never, under any circumstances, stay at that town again (begins with M, ends in ackey) because they wanted the miners to stay there- loud drunks all night every night
    I always stop at Sarina instead, nice little town with friendly people and still about the same distance to all the touristy areas

  43. I worked in Rocky 50 years ago, the only good thing about the town was it was a good place to stay for the night when traveling north or south.
    Now that is not the case, as the Ned Kelly mob want to rob the travellers..

  44. It was the free camping that helped attract us to this town and whilst there we spent money in many shops going out to dinner as well as buying necessary’s. If we had stayed at a caravan park we would not have gone out to dinner as we could not afford it. By having free vamping the money spent by travelers is spread over the town and not just one business. Good on you Rockhampton Council well done. This camp site is policed by councils staff to make sure people follow the rules and do not overstay there visit.

  45. I think the Rocky Council / The Rockhampton Local Business’s & their Chamber of Commerce & Industry Queensland – Need to be reminded of a few facts
    1st The CCIQ is about
    “Run by employers for employers, we represent more than 400,000 small and medium businesses across Queensland. ……….. to power your business potential.” Do you?
    So to all of those nominated above at Rockhampton? and for the readers too.. And I quote
    “The February 2009 (in the Mining Boom) and that’s in the Topical North Queensland Repositioning Study, Final Report, prepared for the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, noted that:
    ‘The grey nomads are a very key part of the visitor mix for the parks, and the region needs to better consider the potential, of these and other domestic drive market traveler’s going forward.
    Whilst a proportion of the grey nomads will seek out the free overnight roadside or council showground parks, there is also a group who will happily pay a for better located and equipped park (Department of Resources Energy and Tourism 2009 p. 42).
    More….well ok then
    Rockhampton Council Mission and Values
    Council’s Mission is to create a Region that our community values and others admire with a set of Corporate Values which will guide how Council services the community.
    Does this not mean for all the community (travellers & all other local business included )not just the few Caravan Park Operators.?

    ABS Statistics
    as of 2017 Australian families feeling the pinch are diverting a bigger share of cash to essentials rather than life’s little luxuries.
    More than half of our budgets are now blown on “basics” — a share that has steadily risen for three decades, ABS data shows
    Oh really…
    An Average of $248 is spent on the basics of food petrol & quick meals or coffee per week per couple. Add that per couple visiting?

    Oh and one more thing.. for all of those nominated above
    THE latest figures show tourism has taken a hit in the Far North, fuelled mainly by a drop in visitors from interstate. Well Hello ….could it be the Park Owners …?
    Tourism Research Australia data to the year ending June 2017 showed domestic overnight visitor expenditure in Queensland increased 5.5 per cent to $15.4 billion, while domestic visitor numbers grew 6.2 per cent to a record high of 21.5 million. Thats great!!!!
    But in Tropical North Queensland, domestic overnight visitation dropped 4 per cent to 1.8m visitors and expenditure declined 9.1 per cent to $1.9bn. Thats huge… bet the park owners dont get these figures.

    These are government figures which anyone of the above including the Park Owners to find out…. I rest my case!
    Facts…. these Owners are just very poor business operators that follow all of the other industry sheep advice…

    So there you have it folks … they lost 1.9Bn in sales last year…..and these few Park owners have to badger the council…. speaks for itself
    Old “Rob-hampton” visitor – for now … but will watch further to see if I ever go back.

  46. My wife & I shipped our motor home to New Zealand 3 years ago. We joined the NZMCA in Papakura Auckland. This was the best thing we could have done for traveling in NZ. The association is very strong in NZ & has worked with councils in both Islands to establish dump sites & freedom camping all around the country.
    The association members also benefit by being able to stay at prime sites around the country owned by the association for a donation of $3.00 dollars a night each in the honesty box.
    Look up NZMCA on line I would like to see a similar strong association here in AU promoting RV friendly towns. These RV friendly towns have signs indicating we are welcome & most have there freedom parking in the most prime sites around the town, all the businesses in town benefit.

  47. Theres not enough caravan sites left, the caravaners have made the parks what they are, then they fill them with cabins and turn into big business.
    I dont stay at parks that turn into cabin parks.
    I support free camping I travelled around Aus for 5 years and its to expensive to travel without free parks.
    Hope Rocky Council make the right decision.

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