WA council boss defends closure of free camp area

Published: February 26, 2021

The leader of the Plantagenet Shire Council has defended the decision to close the popular free camping site in the WA town of Mount Barker.

Cr Chris Pavlovich told the Grey Nomads that the authority was not against RV parking areas in principle, but said the site had been abused by a minority in ‘Wicked Vans, station wagons or older-style caravans’.

“Most users are just a great bunch of tourists happy to live the dream of travel in the Great Southern,” he said. “This small minority have been photographed by locals relieving themselves in the gardens and discharging grey water running onto the ground.”

The free overnight RV facility was originally closed ‘temporarily’ last June, after councillors heard that the Mt Barker Caravan Park had been hit hard by the pandemic. The closure was made permanent at a council meeting last month.

“This action has not eliminated tourists with free camping in and around Mt Barker as each and every day RVs are utilising many rest stops, car parks and other reserves ad lib without question,” said Cr Pavlovich. “We are very pro tourism and local promotion.”

Another free camp which closed ‘temporarily’ due to Covid and that will never reopen is at the Franklin River Reserve on Victoria’s South Gippsland Highway near Toora.

“Franklin River Reserve was closed due to Covid restrictions but has now reopened for day use only,” a spokesperson for South Gippsland Shire Council told the Grey Nomads. “Camping was prohibited after it was found that toilet infrastructure was not coping with usage and there were public health and environmental concerns.”

As reported earlier this week, there is brighter news though in the famously grey nomad friendly town of Bulahdelah on the NSW mid north coast, where the campsite at Lions Park has yet to re-open.

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Judi Mercet
1 year ago

Then they should have a ranger on duty to stop the non-self contained user as other shires do. Why punish the majority for the minority. Seems unfair to me. But still won’t bring my dollar back to Mt Barker.

1 year ago

Never heard so much “rubbish” re the councilors pathetic excuse. As Judi Mercet states above (and quite correctly), Ranger’s are there for a reason. They are the ones abdicating their responsibilities. Nice try councilor, but all sensible thinking folks know it’s all about protecting the Mt Barker c/p. And from personal experience it is a most unfriendly and non welcoming c/p we have had the misfortune to stay at. Never again, and the sad thing is the other businesses miss out as well.

1 year ago

It appears that the Council is trying to help out the caravan park. Won’t work. People that want to free camp will free camp some where else. Just will effect the local businesses.

4 months ago
Reply to  Don

People wanting to free or low cost stay over night do not usually compromise with a caravan park. Don’t the councils understand?

beau lyons
1 year ago

i agree with Ray, just follow the money, and bypass mt barker

1 year ago

Unfriendly town = no stopping

Jean Froggatt
1 year ago

Mount Barker closes the free camp and Narrogin opens a new one. Guess which town I will be spending my money in?

Iian stimson
1 year ago

Mt Barker free camp being closed and now people driving through will obviously effect businesses.
As well for council trying to guide travellers into caravan parks Will not work due to van parks charging unrealistic fees for stays then thinking they offer a 5 star experience for a piece of grass and water toppled with ridiculous book in times i.e 2pm book in 10 am book outso 30 to 50 bucks for not even twenty-four hours doesn’t fit well with most travellers.
Once soon s time it used to be a fee for a site but now it’s how many people or kids more than 2 incurred a charge. One would think families versus couples would balance out over the years and no need for seperate charge for kids etc.
Councils need to get smarter use technology as there friend to managing these free camps as it will be a vial financial input into the town’s.
Looking at Mt Barkers by laws they have the basis to enforce and infringe on council land. A small change to these maybe make it a specific subordinate law for the free camp put some perimeters around time of allowed to free camp 24 hours etc then introduce electronic book in system as national parks do so you are requiring travellers to book ahead and there’s no reason people can’t plan their travels.
Then introduce and education and enforcement policy to the Rangers i.e educate first to gain compliance etc which gives the authorised officer the powers to infringe or educate using his discretion.
Have an early start with an iPad drive around the free camp check the booked in vechiles and deal with others that haven’t booked in.
Linked with this officers can issue littering fines etc as well to those that have.
There will always be a place for caravan parks but not if they keep going the way they are with costs and times and as wellmore permanent sites where people live there with all there rubbish but certain travellers will always stay in van parks and others free camp but if councils work with people there can always be a solution.

1 year ago

The “Fee” camp opposite the Gibson Soak Hotel was also closed for the same reason. Small “Jucy” style motorhomes and backpackers abusing the privilege and ignoring the “Must Be Self-Contained” signs. Could have been avoided by charging a fee, say $30 a night, and then returning said fee if they went to the pub for a meal.

Rob Oldfield
1 year ago

Can’t wait to see the caravan park go broke.

Ah Hee
1 year ago

It’s a shame yes, however I have witnessed the actions of free campers, Backpackers and our “grey nomads. Let’s not be blaming councils for all our woes. We the travelling community bring these things on ourselves. A small minority of us abuse the privilege we have been afforded by country communities. Ie the caravanner using a chain saw to collect wood straight from the tree, the traveller who cut the padlock on a council power board with the all purpose key so he could plug in and connected his van to the water using the universal tap handle. in the outback in drought. In Kiama NSW the motor homers who frequently free park at the show grounds and connect to the power or knock down the stone wall on the way out and their only concern being how much damage has been done to my very expensive toy. too tight to use a caravan park. they sneak in under cover of darkness and disappear before 1st light . like insurgents in the nite.
However we all have choices when we travel, free camp or caravan park. we all prefer to free camp and we begrudge business owners the right to earn a living. Go figure

lyle shedden
1 year ago
Reply to  Ah Hee

Ah Hee,
Where have you been? your comments and opinions echo what 98-99% of travellers think, the 1-2% of inconsiderate morans muck things for everyone, reckon that we, the travellers need a good common-sense leader and guess what Bud?, you are the perfect choice nothing wrong with a honesty donation box at free camp areas, at least it may contribute in a small way to help clean up after the rubbish dumpers, why should the local tax-payers foot the bill…come on Ah Hee, run for Federal Caravanners President and advisor!!!

Jacqui Walsh
5 months ago
Reply to  lyle shedden

Couldn’t agree more, only problem we have found is that the 1-2% is fast turning into 10%

1 year ago

It is a pity that the free camps are getting more & more crowded as more free camps close. We have all witnessed loo paper and ‘stuff’ in the nearby camp spots and general rubbish thrown around.
Out of hundreds of campers it only takes one rat-bag to give us all a bad name.
I can only think, campers with their own toilet and underneath holding tanks for grey water etc [emptying in correct places as they travel] are not generally the ones creating any of these problems.
pointing the finger at station wagons, wicked campers and such like is not been biased, it has to be a fact….. they need to ‘go’ some where to do wee/poo. wash themselves, cook without littering list goes on.
Perhaps cheaper camp spots in caravan parks should be promoted [say in Wiki-camps?] for these types of travelers so they have toilets, rubbish bins, somewhere to cook, wash etc. Leaving the rest of SC campers to enjoy our lovely bush spots.
Cameras high in trees might help the upkeep of free camps, with appropriate fines for doing the wrong thing.

Malcolm Nelson Jeffries
1 year ago
Reply to  vonjean

the only problem with the camera is that the overseas backpackers that mostly use whizz bangers and secondhand stn wagons is they don’t pay any fines and don’t care if they get a fine

John Leipold
1 year ago

If the local caravan park has suffered because of the pandemic, as suggested by the council, is it necessarily because of the pandemic? Perhaps it’s a reflection on the c.p. itself as mentioned above. We’ve JUST returned to Perth after a trip via Wagin, Albany, Manjimup and Bunbury and in each case the caravan parks were almost fully booked – to the extent that when we didn’t book ahead (as was once the norm) we were accommodated in an “overflow” area at one location. Did the council investigate how the pandemic is affecting other caravan parks before they shut the gate??

Marney May
1 year ago

The article made me angry for a number of reasons

1 The Free Camp site it is not closing to benefit the councillors or other caravan parks it is because of the filth and garbage left behind.

2 MY husband worked for the Shire of Whyndam East Kimberly and caught Rota Virus while cleaning up free camps along the Gibb River road.Some one left dirty disposable nappies lying around. Yes he wore gloves but had not been issued with a mask. He was sick for several weeks

3. Rangers are not always given the power to move along campers. It may not be part of their duties. Shire of Whyndham East Kimberly rangers only attend when complains of anti social behavior or littering is made. Under the act of 1992 it is illegal to camp other than a registered caravan park or camping ground. If you camp within a certain range of a town with a caravan park you are moved on by the police.

4 Rangers are paid by councils who are funded by the rate payers of the towns we visit. Rate payers expect Rangers to do there duties and often it does not mean curbing anti social behavior or

5 comments such as I hope they go broke or will bypass that town and not spend my money sound spiteful and will send the mum and pop businesses bankrupt. Many will support large supermarkets owned by non Australians, petrol station chains all owned and run by non Australians but will not supportAustralian owned and operated caravan parks and some members go so far as to say they hope they go broke. As AH HEE said go figer.

6 Check Council website for bylaws and ranger duties
Ever emotional and touchy subjects.

I see it his way
A -Shires do not have to provide Free Camps. They are a privilege not a right.
B- Free Camp sites are paid for by the rate payers of the town who should have to pay for the clean up after irresponsible visitors.
C. Those among the Free Campers, Travelers and Grey Nomads who do the wrong thing are to blame and I am sure more free camps will close.

lyle shedden
1 year ago
Reply to  Marney May

10/10 for you Marney, you are spot on…Perhaps you and Ah Hee need to represent all of ‘the good travellers’ in Canberra.

5 months ago
Reply to  Marney May

Well said – there are too many free loaders amongst us travellers who have this sense of entitlement that everything should be low cost or free (at someone else’s expense). Pay your way and support small regional family businesses with no conditions attached. Give these towns a fair go and remember the ‘user pays’ principle.

Peter MacKenzie
1 year ago

Who is going to pay the Ranger

Marney May
1 year ago

There seams to be an assumption the rate payers via council will pay Rangers to police anti social behavior and clean up the filth left behind. I for one would like my rates to be used on projects that benefit my community and not wasted on lazy people who don’t clean up after themselves.

Greg Roberts
1 year ago
Reply to  Marney May

So true, wizbangers(backpackers) at Kakadu Nat Park
They leave so much mess behind the ranger there told ne
They wish they could ban them. Sad isn’t,t it that a few cruel for the

Adrian vanzetti
5 months ago

Agree with judi .dont need toilets make only available for self contained vans
Dont need water supplied either when there is fresh water stream running through.
People with vans will support foster shops

4 months ago

The idea that free campers are sponging on the local ratepayers is wrong.
Those local ratepayers will be off free camping in others peoples’ Shires sone time.
So they are being compensated for their costs at some time.


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