‘Free camping could kill off Tasmania’s caravan parks!’

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Tassie's free camps are a hit with many grey nomads
Tassie's free camps are a hit with many grey nomads ... but not so much with van park operators

While many grey nomads are unhappy about new regulations which they fear may see less free camping areas in Tasmania, the caravan industry says it is still the commercial parks that are really most under threat.

Industry figures show the number of caravan parks across Tasmania has fallen by almost 25% in less than a decade, from 100 down to 77 … and Caravanning Tasmania says many more owner-operators are struggling to survive.

“The caravan park sector is in fast decline, and there will probably be as few as 10 genuine caravan parks left in Tasmania in the next eight to 10 years if something doesn’t change,” the group’s president, Rowen Carter, told the ABC. “Free camping is part of the Australia psyche but what we’re talking about is councils subsidising people to have a holiday in the centre of town — they’re having an adverse effect on the caravan park visitor nights.”

Mr Carter said it simply wasn’t fair that caravan parks were paying commercial rates for their sites while the parks were losing customers and subsidising them to stay in council sites.

The recently released Tasmanian Government policy statement on free or low-cost camping, requires councils or public entities involved in providing campsites to compete on fair and equal terms with private businesses. The ABC reports that it also determined councils must limit their public, non-powered campsites to no more than 10% of all camping offerings within a 60-kilometre radius of a commercial caravan park.

However the policy statement also said that, if it can be proved it’s in the public interest to offer free or low-cost camping within those bounds, councils can be exempted from the rules … and that’s what upsets Caravanning Tasmania.

Mr Carter told the ABC that the public interest test was ‘far too wide-ranging’ and ‘flawed’.

“The State Government is not holding councils accountable … councils are running rampant, councils are the police, the judge and juror in this case,” he said. “The Government, as the body that should oversee this, are not enforcing the rules.”

In a written statement to the ABC, a Tasmanian Government spokesperson defended the new policy, saying it had been developed in collaboration with industry.

“Tasmania is open for business and there is no better place that offers free and low-cost camping, as well as a significant number of well managed commercial parks and camping facilities, which all have an important role to play in our visitor economy,” the spokesperson said.

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20 Responses to ‘Free camping could kill off Tasmania’s caravan parks!’

  1. It’s freedom of choice. I will patronise any town which is RV friendly while driving past those which are dictated to by the caravan park operators. The modern RV doesn’t need a caravan park but we do need the baker, butcher, IGA, fuel, news agency, restaurant, cafe and any other business which is contributing to their local community. Caravan parks are still useful for some people but the majority don’t want them so PLEASE do not dictate to us. Grey Nomads contribute much more to the towns and community than any caravan park operator ever will. They are in business to make money and trying to manipulate your market is not going to win you more business. It will punish the legitimate businesses within the towns. Technology catches up with all dinosaurs as time moves on. Instead of trying to cage the grey nomads you’d be far better off welcoming them into the town. A self contained RV has no adverse impact on a town. Public toilets and rubbish collection is a part of life in this great country so it is petty to accuse free campers of getting this at the caravan park operators expense. Every tourist to the town utilises the same facilities and truth be known, the grey nomad uses less electricity and water with a smaller environmental footprint than the caravan park dwellers. Time to move into the 21st Century Mr Caravan Park.

    • 100%correct

    • The elephant in the room that nobody has mentioned is that if all RVs went to a caravan park in Tasmania, would there be enough room to fit them all?
      My experience is that I doubt it very much! Those unable to obtain a space within the caravan park would have to find an alternative site.
      Would that be a free/low cost site provided by a council or private land owner?

  2. I do not recall the hotels/motels complaining when caravan parks started putting in units and stealing their customers.
    If the caravan parks want customers they should meet the market. I do not feel sorry for them.

  3. Let the free market reign. We need less government intervention in all aspects. If a local council determines there is a positive business case for the local community investing in facilities for caravaners so be it. The free market will always produce far better results then a bunch of public servants.

    • Well said Malcolm! We do not need our hands held while crossing the road either.

    • No business can compete with free.
      If the Caravan Parks don’t have to pay rates and land tax then your argument stacks up but not as it sits at the moment.

      • We choose ‘free’ because the CP has nothing which we need/want. Trying to manipulate the market is not the answer. If their business model doesn’t pay dividends then sell up and go elsewhere or try something that works. I’d much rather pay a business in town for something I want rather than a CP which offers me nothing at an expensive price.

  4. This travelling community of people is growing at an incredible rate, it is much larger now than it has ever been and caravan parks have always been a holiday choice. For a lot of free campers today, this has become a lifestyle, and the value/cost of staying at caravan parks would negate buying food and petrol. We know that small towns value the free campers, they know that otherwise the doors to their business might close without them. Catering to one business (caravan parks) means a whole industry would be affected, including those that sell RV’s….don’t be stupid!

  5. When C.P change their price(lower) and facilities to suit those that don’t need all the amenities they will have customers.
    Until then sel sufficient travellers do not need them.
    C.P can not whinge for no customers, the ball has always been in their court and they.ve always had the option to tailor their parks to suit the changing customer.
    No sympathy for them.. . NONE

    • I agree Andrews. If the caravan parks set up an area for self contained rvs and charged an acceptable fee that would be in competition with the low cost sites then i believe they would be keeping pace with how the industry has evolved.

  6. My mission in life is not to provide income for selfish Caravan Park owners. In my experience many of them smile widely upon booking in and once the money changes hands so does their attitude. This is a free market economy.

  7. Maybe caravan parks need to start doing some market researxh. Find out why business is declining. Are you offering a service that the public wants. Do your fees reflect then needs of your customers and the products they wish to use or have available to them? Do not try and price gouge from the few. It is better to offer realistic prices and make your profit from the many in small amounts. Do you provide value for money or provide pricing based on usage? Some travellers only require basic need and do not want to fund to cater for ithers. Caravan parks are complaining about free camping, is there any complaints from motels when parks offer cheap cabin accomodation? Do local ammusement centres complain when parks offer a collection of amusements such as jumping oillws, games rooms with electronis games, pool tables, large playgrounds? Stop trying to use legislation to obtain business and start offering what the customer whants and you may find tha you wil get customers. We dont care if your rates are high, you chose to go into that kind of business!

    • I often see comments that the caravan park business is declining and they need to do this or that. The simple fact is if you read the press releases coming constantly from the CIAA, business is booming and has been for several years. Production numbers of new rigs are at record highs. Just read their own research and it is hard to conclude that the business is declining, changing yes, nut declining no.

    • Totally agree John! I have Just returned from a 2 month stint to this remarkable state and have found that most ‘Self Contained’ RVs choose to stay at a FREEBIE provided by Hotels etc, or take the BUDGET option at $5 or $10 p/n, of which there are many. How long does it take for complaining Caravan park owners to wake up to the fact that they need to diversify to meet the changing caravan industry where ‘self contained’ RVs are now the norm, For example, ‘Old Macs Farm’ near Launceston. At $10 p/n, with water and limited toilet/shower facilities provided, the farm in peak season averages 50/80 vans p/n. To survive, CPs have to provide a ‘Budget’ option. How many more times have they got to be told!

  8. The parameters have changed since vans became self contained. Parks need to offer something attractive to get business. Plenty of country pubs have gone broke but many have prospered. Visiting Tassie is difficult and expensive. South Aus looks better and better for my next long trip

  9. If I can’t freecamp in Tasmania I won’t be going again , you have to get something for free as to off set the cost of the ferry ticket ( $2400) they seem to have taken everything into account except the cost of getting there

  10. When Mr Carter charges $50 per night for 2 adults and a child, $50 per dog and then you have to pay for showers I’d say that would be the reason his business is not doing well and nothing to do with ‘ mainlanders in $200,000 rigs driving past his place to ‘free’ camp or spend time at the council operated park.

  11. The preceding arguments are compelling.Self contained RVs don’t always need or want to stay in a caravan park.Progressive towns and councils will recognise the opportunity,hence RV Friendly towns. Caravan park owners need to look at their business model. There is room for both.Freedom of Choice is the only way forward.

  12. The Tasmanian government and local councils must recognise that grey and not so grey nomads pay an enormous amount of money to transport their rigs over to the island. To then be forced to pay expensive nightly caravan park fees once on the island would in most cases render the whole trip virtually a non realistic financial proposition, Tasmanian business’s are so reliant on tourism and the state will suffer badly if freedom camping is reduced. We will not come. The authorities would be much wiser to work with caravan park owners to encourage them to listen to our needs and allocate areas within the caravan parks for self contained RV’s who do not need all the bells and whistles and then charge a minimal fee. This would encourage more of us to support the caravan park industry and everyone would be happy. This is not rocket science. The problem is that the authorities are simply not prepared to listen to us and therefore Tasmania will suffer.

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