Upgrade or no upgrade? Town’s campsite quandary

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Townsville free camping
Improvements may be overdue for the toilet block at Rollingstone. PIC: Evan Morgan/Townsville Bulletin

Like many other communities across Australia, Townsville in northern Queensland is grappling with how to cater to the needs of free campers while not alienating the area’s commercial caravan parks.

The City Council has been conducting community consultation about possible upgrades to several free camping spots along the northern beaches, including Toomulla Beach, Rollingstone, Bluewater, Balgal Beach and Saunders Beach.

Division councillor Margie Ryder told the Townsville Bulletin that the issue of facility upgrades was becoming more pressing as time went on.

“We have to look at are we going to make it RV friendly, are we going to make it better for camping,” she said. “Sites haven’t got showers for example … the RVs are not a problem, because they’re going to come regardless because they have the facilities.”

She said it was really about establishing what needed to be done, who was going to pay for it, and how to do it without undermining the existing caravan parks.

“It needs to be a hot topic to get resolved,” she said. “We can keep putting our heads in the sand or we can address it.”

Cr Ryder said the free campsites brought more money into the community, but there were constant problems with offleash dogs and illegal fires.

“We need to figure out if we can police these places better,” she said.

One of the things being looked at was improving the amenities.

Townsville Enterprise tourism and events manager Bridget Woods said the kinds of issues that Townsville faced with free camping sites were similar to those being looked at all over Australia.

“We absolutely support our existing commercial operators but we do need to look at these camping sites and see what needs to change … it’s a challenge,” she said. “We need to recognise the strategy for every town is different and the need for every stakeholder to be considered.”

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14 Responses to Upgrade or no upgrade? Town’s campsite quandary

  1. Great idea to upgrade , put in coin operated showers .

  2. Off leash areas and illegal fires could probably attributed to backpacker travellers who don’t seem to care about rubbish at all. I have seen very few grey nomads who don’t clean up after themselves and their dogs.
    Secondly, caravan parks must polish up their customer service to win over the public as well as offering special deals and services. We are currently staying at a park that provides someone on a tractor to park and hitch up your van – now that is service.
    By limiting free camping to one or two day stays could help but unfortunately there is always someone greedy out there to rort the system.

  3. Stop the caravan parks ruining the motel industry by putting cabins in every possible space,drop there price to a reasonable amount and we all support them again.The caravan park operators are killing there own businesses with over the top prices.Most of us are fully self sufficient and only require a place to park, so the ridiculous site fees only drive us away, or to free camp.Yes I do have a long background of running small and large businesses and I can tell you that a park full at $20 a night a site will make you more money than one that has 6 sites full at $45.a night. Cheers Stevo.

    • Well said bring prices down and they would be full and more supported we belueve by everyone, although still most east coast parks are cheaper than WA except for Queensland which are about same

  4. Speaking only for me and my wife, because our situation is not the same as everyone, being full-time travelers with a fully self-contained caravan.
    We will look for, and visit towns that offer free camping. We will frequent the town’s businesses and spend money on supplies and dining out.
    If a town (such as reports from Gladstone) bans free camping, we will simply by-pass that town. We won’t be forced to stay in caravan parks, because that’s not what we enjoy.
    We aren’t looking for showers and laundry and all the other things that are on offer in most parks… with their associated costs.
    We simply want to spend a bit of quiet time, which is why we bought our van, in the first place.
    We’ve already crossed Gladstone off our map. We’ll keep an eye on the progress of Townsville and others.

  5. The bottom line is that if free camping is abolished the bottom line of many businesses will take a hit. There are more businesses to consider than just caravan parks. If the numer of tourists decrease it will be other businesses that suffer. The grey nomad sector is a very powerfull sector with many avenues for communication. Most don’t like being forced to subsidise those who require jumping pillows, pools and play grounds.

  6. After being on the road for 5 months doing both caravan
    Parks and free camping. We have found that Western
    Australia seems to have a good model. WA provides delegated 24 hour areas with drop toilets dump points and rubbish bins. These are managed by local councils. A lot of caravan parks we noted were expensive and had outdated amentities but there is room for all types of camping facilities. We use Caravan Parks for longer stays as they provide water, power, toilets, showers, and washing machines.

    • Another comment well said regards WA and agree as being travellers ourselves

  7. I wanted to add please upgrade facilities. If necessary place a small fee for use. I am sure most people will not mind paying for a cleaned amentity block. The cost would be offset against the money that is spent in the town and would go towards ongoing cleaning costs.

  8. Rules and regulations have to be followed.
    If Councils parks are free to do whatever they wish, then so can privately owned caravan parks.

  9. Just don’t do what the Gold Coast did. Gold Coast Council and it’s supporters moved the free campside and do not ptovide a ulternative. Free camping is a must, there are to many of us travelling and not enough spaces to stop and enjoy the region for a few days. The same with the National Parks. Can’t book a place and no one is present to help in a positive way to solve the problem, paying the fee to stay. No phone connections and worse.

  10. Good on you townsville, it is common knowledge that people who free camp will bypass your town if facilities are not provided. These people very rarely sray at caravan parks. They do however buy food, fuel and alcohol and will buy that at the towns that provide the free camps.

  11. All of these sites are a few K’s from Townsville City. Have had conversation with this councilor and she is all for free camps and originally from Julia Creek enough said .

  12. Lets talk evolution. Inns, pubs, motels, caravans, fully self contained RV’s. Van parks didn’t care about pubs / motels now every previous accommodation is superceeded. Due dillegence would tell you parks are out dated. Reliable told elect’ / night is on average $6. Getting burnt? Yep.

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