‘One cheap camping option down, time to shut another’

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Calliope river rest area
Some would like to see this popular camping area closed down.

A local caravan park owner has expressed delight at the imminent closure of  Gladstone Showgrounds to campers, but he says he would now like to see the popular  Calliope River Rest Area closed as well.

The owner of the Kin Kora Village Caravan and Residential Home Park, Monte Olsen, told the Gladstone Observer that the free rest area and showgrounds were ‘killing’ his business.

“There were 140 vans at the Calliope River Rest Area the other weekend,” Mr Olsen said. “And I get about four … it’s all uphill battle for a local business, you can’t compete against free.”

He said the Gladstone Regional Council-managed rest area, which offers free camping to travellers for up to 48 hours, meant he faced unfair competition.

Mr Olsen said he had to pay staff wages, insurance, and “sky-rocketing rates” all to have his park overlooked for free options. And he said it wasn’t right that meanwhile Gladstone ratepayers were picking up the bill for road resurfacing, amenities block cleaning, maintenance, garbage collection, grass slashing, and policing of long-term stays at camping sites in the Gladstone region including one at Calliope and Futter Creek Camping Reserve in the Boyne Valley.

However, Council Mayor Matt Burnett told the Observer that the council had “no intention of closing down the rest stop as it provides a safe rest to travellers using the national highway”.

“I have been advised by camping and caravanning organisation representatives that often those travelling sometimes like to use rest areas and at other times like to come into towns to stay,” Cr Burnett said.

The Calliope River Rest Area has operated for more than 40 years, and there is no limit placed on the number of vehicles that can use it at any one time.

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55 Responses to ‘One cheap camping option down, time to shut another’

  1. Hello Mr. Olsen, welcome to the real world of business; it’s called competition. We dont hear any complaints from the motel sector when you put in cabins and try and take trade from them.
    When the mining boom was on, most caravan parks got greedy and chased the big dollars at the expense of the caravanners.
    The boom has bust and caravanners, with long memories, are spending their money at more friendly places.
    Every land and business owner in your town pays rates, but none of them complain about the free camping. They are glad to get something. Not like some greedy park owners who want the lot and to hell with the rest of the town.
    Perhaps a change is needed at your park. I might suggest attitude be looked at first

    • Well said gerry you have hit the nail on the head when times were good they did not want to know us

    • Can anyone please tell me why the council have closed the Calliope river camp grounds anyway. Also, the toilets up the top part have been now closed for about 2 years. I just don’t understand. I as a local go out there every SAT OR sun and is always nice to see families there including locals.

  2. As a caravan owner with self contained amenities and power like most other caravaners the owner of Kin Kora Village has to realise he is not offering anything to interest us. If the free rest areas/camps were to close we would just move on the next free camp and spend our money in their supermarkets, hotels, chemists etc and Gladstone would miss out.

    • Exactly. They will not force us to use their product. We just go elsewhere.

  3. I wonder how much is the caravan park charging? Cheaper rates, maybe more vans.

  4. Did Mr Olsen concider the motels when he put cabins in his park. This is one park I will avoid.

  5. Travellers will bypass these towns and our money will go where we are wanted

  6. What is this world coming to as all they think about is money money and more money. If its free lets take it away.
    I hope the mayor takes responsibility should a incident occur due to taking away a drivers resting place.
    What should have happened is that it remain open and tighter restrictions applied.
    As for the caravan park owner . He should have looked at making the park more attractive for visitors to visit but as the rest area is now closed i would like to know is the mayor going to maintain tight controls on the caravan park fees or will he let him charge what ever he wants.

    I suppose this will depend if the council has a vested interest.

    Councils and park owners underestimate the costs to take the family on a camping trip and as the overall costs are now going through the roof it seems more cost effective to hire a motel opposed to camping and experiencung the outdoors.


  7. We stay there overnight on our way Rocky. If you take away the rest area RVs will bypass Gladstone. Quite a few unhook and drive into Gladstone for shopping. Also I have seen tourists walk up to the heritage village. We are ex Rocky residents.

  8. I wonder if the caravan park owner has a car? If he does he is doing the taxi guys out of business, cooks his own meals? If he does he is doing the poor restaurants out of business, shame on him. No one owes him a living!!! Want to take away bins and toilets in all public places? Sometimes non locals use these, you need to be inbred from Gladstone to qualify for use of local amenities? Australians are local!!!!!

  9. You absolutely can compete against free, if your facilities are worth paying for and you provide great customer service.

  10. does not the caravan park owner realise that grey nomads generaly support more businesses in town and would probibly use his park more often if he wasn;t so pig headed for now i would by pass Gladstone as if it was the last place on the coast

  11. Always, the almighty Dollar wins. Bugger the battler.

  12. Caravan parks for years have been losing cheap areas for caravans etc for mobile cabins….The park owner needs to get with the times!!!

  13. This inconsiderate spiteful greedy person who thinks he’s entitled to more than his share of the tourist market is an a greedy grub , don’t stay in his park .

  14. Of course he is delighted the Gladstone showground has closed. He thinks all those vans will go to his park. WRONG.
    They will keep going and all of Gladstone’s little businesses will miss out. You will still miss out Mr Olsen. People have long memories. Put in more cabins because the vans won’t stay.

  15. Good on you Gladstone Shire Council, we and thousands of others really appreciate your generosity. The caravan park owner is not affected by us as we are passing through and would pass by were it not for the stop. We always refuel and top up food in your shire.

  16. It seems that all van park owners think about is their back pocket. There will always be a need for caravan parks for those who want to stay there, i have lived in 3 over the years. For those wanting free camp there is a number of reasons. Cost, if paying for a park every night is the only option most would not travel therefor smaller communities would not benifit from food, fuel sales etc. Space, being crammed in close is not always fun – you are looking for a different experience not one when it feeling like you are still a home. In the cheaper options like national parks having a fire is a must for cooking or just sitting around, there is not to many opportunities to do so in van parks. What i don’t understand is the closed mentality of van park owners when in a country like New Zealand it is promoted and encourged, spreading the money around. Really backward thinking.

  17. It is unfortunate that the Park owner feels he is loosing business but shut down the free camps and all businesses in town will loose as the caravaners will stop near other towns. Unfortunately it is a changing scene now that almost all vans are self sufficient. Caravan.Parks,due to their overheads, are just too expensive. If you spend $100000 plus on a van you dont want to be paying big fees for overnight stays.

  18. I am a resident of Gladstone and support the retention of the Calliope River rest area for the travelling public in its present format. I have stayed there and at Futters Creek on a number of occasions with my caravan and later with camper trailer mainly because they are such lovely spots close to home without the need of travelling long distances due to time constraints. This also allows me to interact with like interested nomads. Enjoy your stay here in Central Queensland. It’s a special place but do call into Gladstone as it has a lot of attractions to offer for an industrial town especially the Spinniker Park Marina, Harbour Lookouts & Botanic Gardens

  19. You prices are killing your industry, you need to have a look at the big picture $ 20-00 a night & you would see the difference, it is the way of the future, there are more caravans out there self sufficient and growing.

  20. There will always be travellers who will only ever stay at free/cheaper options and those that will always pay & stay at caravan parks. Closing free camps will not force people into a towns caravan park … will just make them drive through that particular town onto another where they are welcome.

  21. When the mining boom was on the Gladstone caravan parks did not want the Grey Nomad trade, now that times have changed they want the GM`s back.
    The greedy caravan park operators want more than two bites of the cherry.
    I hope the mayor and the councilors do not change their minds and bend to the wishes of the greedy CV park operators.

  22. As usual they say they are not making money just greedy, you will never get those people in there because they like their freedom of choice not herded in like cattle. Also they enjoy the country feel about being there.

    • REAL campers, you know, the ones that use tents, get pushed out of free camping grounds by dirty big vans/campervans etc. The vans etc take up a huge amount of space and ruin the experience for true campers..not the perpetual gypsies that move on like locusts. Travelling the Country doesn’t mean you have automatic preference to CAMPING spots.

  23. If one shops sells at a certian price and the next shop sells the same product at a very reduced price councils dont shut down the cheap shop its the dear shop has to produce something the customer wants to compete same with camping grounds they should up there game to get customers its called competion

  24. Problem is, if the free camps shut down, people won’t be forced into the caravan parks, they will go elsewhere. Look at Tasmania!

  25. Dont feel for them they fit cabins and expect motels to wear it. He has invested a lot of money in his park and good on him, i’ve invested a lot of money in my outfit but somehow thats not the same. Take away bush / free camps and we leave home later and arrive home earlier and dont go near as far.

    • If you go home earlier then maybe ordinary people that just want to pitch a tent can actually find a CAMPING site!

      • Visit your optometrist as I see plenty of tent sites everywhere.

  26. If this owner did not charge his ridiculous camping fees, then many of us Grey Nomads MIGHT stay at his Park for a few days. Getting ripped off is the only factor causing ur grief. I will still by-pass ur place now & spend my money in the town’s shops & then move on.

  27. It amazes my that he complaints about free camping ‘he only gets about 4’. Sorry but he must be doing somthing wrong, just come back from Birdsville, one van park and ACRES of free camp area with water fill points. The Van park was FULl and stipulated 5 days minimum. ????

  28. It’s good to understand the Caravan Parks have the over heads, rates etc. On the other hand they have to not price themselves out of the market $25.00 to $30.00 is ok anything over creates the problem purpose of having a van . Recently in Hervey Bay Prices range from $40.00 to $78.00 per night ridiculous.. The Gray no mads spend more money in a town that some council’s don’t release. Bundaberg for instance one park I stay at spends and average of $80.00 per Van. Don’t stop the free park encourage it instead big draw card big advanages.

    • I am thinking of writing an article about childer gota love it free camping right behind main street and boy is it a happy town up to 50% increase in some business standing room only at the chemist the pubs love it iga is in town so it has realy picked up its only been 12 months but boy a lot of towns could take a look at the results here

      • Couldn’t agree more Kevin, Childers is a shining light for others to copy. They have helped their town boom, we even liked that one of the pubs close by to the camp area allows dogs in the garden area of the food court. The IGA is very convenient and stocks a huge range of products.

  29. I agree with the local council, there is enough room for every one to be accomodated with vans or not. Its my choice as to where I wish to park up.

  30. It seems to me instead of complaining about freecampers, thus risking alienating all travellers with the self interested bleetings of greed and avarice, a smart man might look to how he could attract custom. Having travelled extensively, what fills the caravan parks is word of mouth about positive experiences in the van parks, not the vindictive rantings of bitter van park owners and managers too preoccupied with sitting and waiting for vans to roll up their driveway while counting the money. Travellers want experiences, value adding is the key and it doesn’t need to cost a lot.
    I could share some ideas I have seen work a treat in building the popularity of parks, but I fear that the owner/manager of Kia Ora may need to do some soul searching as to his worthiness of FREE assistance. Maybe one day he might see the futility of his misdirected venom and get his head out of his backside.

  31. In the townships where there is a C.Park and Free camp site I would think that the old 80 to 20 ration would be the case. 80% would use C.Parks for security and other reasons like laundry and power, dump point andwater.
    My view is that there should be an honour box at all free camp spots.
    Also it is my belief that Freecamp does allow far more inter reaction than C.Parks.

  32. How many sites does this caravan park? If he doesn’t have 140 then he wouldn’t be able to accommodate all the vans at Calliope. So what would the others do? This is the big problem with all these complaining caravan park owners all they want is to fill their sites and the other caravanners can make their own arrangements!!!

  33. If he really want to know why he supposedly only had four in his park, he needs to read the reviews by his own customers in any camping app you wish to read. The old saying of once bitten twice shy springs to mind. Business people in all walk of business tend to blame everything except where they should be looking, in the mirror.

    • I was pleased to read all he comments about this non business like Park owner and to see that at least one comment addressed the CP review where it was blatently obvious that the interest was in CABINS and his obvious disdain for caravanners. I have posted before about the double standards of many CP owners who do not consider the effect on Hotels and Motels but bleat about us to bush camp. Many a CP has ruined our park stays by giving a site next to weekender booze ups, with no regard for any one else nearby.

  34. I think it’s time the GNs boycotted the parks that charge more than $30.00, or require a minimum stay.
    See how the feel when the banks come knocking. Volume equals profit any day.

  35. What a grumpy bunch of whingers. I tell you, caravanners (Grey Nomads) are getting a woeful reputation in this country. I have never met a “cheaper” crowd in my life.

    • Many of them carry a strong sense of entitlement that’s for sure. They park at busy boat ramps and take up spots that are meant for a car and boat trailer, then get all self-righteous when challenged about it. I’d hate to see the amount of waste water that gets illegally dumped by (some of) them.

    • Jed, please don’t label all of us as miserable whingers, we are Grey Nomads and feel exactly the same as you do. There is a real sense of entitlement in a great number of Grey Nomads and a sense of right. We recently pulled into a site at a van park and within minutes were asked how long we were staying when I answered , I was told we would probably be told to move as we were on “their friends”. site. Also we have found that many nomads ignore the rules at free camps often staying longer than the allowable time. We have even seen Grey Nomads release water into rivers and empty loo cassettes under trees. Yes some are bad but not all…..

  36. Hi all
    I am lucky enough to have a job that requires extensive travel.
    I can tell you there is an obvious difference between towns/ shires that welcome travelers and those that do not.
    The friendly places are booming with visitors and it certainly shows, visitors make a valuable contribution to the economy.
    The nasty towns are dying.
    There are numerous townships in FNQ that have the effort of free campgrounds or show grounds that are realistically priced. Thus there are visitors galore up there.
    I am not a grey nomad, I am a 34 yr old go hard work-a-holic and it is awesome to see so many people travelling and a very satisfying to see so many people visiting small towns. And from what I see, there are more and more people travelling every year and good on them.

    I have been to places that are not welcoming. What do I do, just keep on driving and get out. Not one dollar gets spent in those places.
    One place in WA I.m still driving away from 8 years later.
    Times have changed, you don’t see water buckets or feed stops for horses anymore. These days travelers are totally self sufficient and anyone offering accommodation / camps must realise this and adjust to suit. In my travels I do see caravan parks full, absolutely chockos and some of them are in remote areas where there is plenty of free space to pull up. So those caravan parks are doing something right.
    To the travelers, grey nomads or not, keep travelling, travel well, safe and thank you for your contribution.

    • Great observation, agree 100%. As Senior travelers with a van we look for places that are welcoming with low cost or free over night camping or have plenty of RVs in the area. Julia Creek is a good example, there are vans parked around the place and shops are busy. With 100s of Rvs at the free camp east of town people it is clear they enjoy the area.

      • Been at this free camp, they work in conjunction with the town van park who will send a courtesy van to pick up free campers for the van park camp over dinner during the nomad season and drop them back afterwards. The van park also offers a discount to vanners who want to stay in the town longer than the 4 days allowed at the free camp if you move into the park.

  37. Darren has a lot of anger towards caravaners get a life mate and save and work hard and one day you can up grade to a van. Agree with comments $20 – $30 max for caravan parks and they would get a lot more patronage.

  38. I couldn’t agree more, this is our first trip in our recently purchased RV. Being new to the whole grey nomad scene we are on a fast learning curve. I had booked into the Big 4 Marina at Mackay. Even though the weekly price was reasonable we were really dissapointed with the park. Most of the concrete slabs have big cracks in them making them extremely bad trip hazards, the amenities were really old and not cleaned nearly enough. We booked for 3 weeks just to get out of the cold weather but moved on after 5 days for something better. We met up with friends and have camped at cheaper oceanside freecamp or moderately priced campsites and enjoyed the experience greatly and can’t wait to travel again. Staying at that van park has left a sour taste in our mouths.

  39. We tried to book a site at a Caravan Park RIGHT on the beach at Kingscliffe and was told that they could not guarantee a particular site anywhere, even though we booked a year ahead.The booking fee was $130 for 2 nights. Needless to say we won’t go there again.

  40. Recently stayed at Whyalla at the Discovery Holiday Park right on the waterfront, (deal) stay 4 nights and pay $25 per night. We had a large flat and fabulous waterfront site for a week, and we didn’t have to pay $50 to $70 bucks a night for it, yes it was fine gravel with no slab but you stepped down directly onto the beach, beautifully clean amenities, awesome office staff, BBQ’s put on by the park weekly for gold coin donation, 4 meats and salad another night minimal cost and pancakes on a Sunday morning. Met heaps of people, had a ball, a rarity at low cost. A definite return visit at some time in the future.

  41. It’s ok when their is 2 people what about if you have kids,,, with 3 kids I’m paying up to 80 dollars a night. So to be honest if free camping was banned I would sell my caravan and just go to Bali. With free camping my family and I can afford to hitch up the caravan and take of through all the struggling country towns… with free camping we out of pure respect spend are money in that town , we can afford to eat out and we buy are fuel and groceries in that town so if free camping is banned all businesses will suffer verses the rip off caravan parks

  42. “There were 140 vans at the Calliope River Rest Area the other weekend,” Mr Olsen said. “And I get about four…”

    Speaks volumes abut the product you’re offering mate.

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