Free camping grey nomads accused of flouting the law

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Free camping is an important part of the experience for many grey nomads
Free camping is an important part of the experience for many grey nomads

The debate over grey nomads’ right to free camp has ratcheted up another gear.

Following a front page story in the Herald-Sun newspaper which said ‘grey nomads are thumbing their noses at the law and holidaying free’, the issue has become a white-hot topic on talkback radio.

The original newspaper article said authorities were cracking down on illegal camping and that fines for tourists sleeping on public land had risen by 300% in some parts of Victoria.

While campers in general stood accused of leaving waste at top tourism sites, including at the world-famous Bells Beach, the Herald-Sun quoted travelling retirees as saying it was the backpackers in mini-vans that were giving free camping a bad name.

However, the message from Victoria’s tourism chiefs was loud and clear. They are saying  that anyone, regardless of age or mode of transport, who wants to have a holiday paid for by the public purse should ‘go away’.

Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine head, Roger Grant, told the Herald-Sun that people travelling in vans costing some $300,000 should not be crying poor, nor expect to camp for free.

He said that grey nomads shouldn’t expect ratepayers to subsidise their holiday, and that the idea that we all have a God-given right to camp at beaches or up bush tracks was ‘simply nonsense’.

But grey nomads have been eager to state their case on talkback radio this morning as the commercial stations and the ABC scrambled to cover the issue.

Ron Walsh is on the road full-time and told 3AW that he couldn’t afford to stay in van parks.

“I know caravan parks and councils say a lot of people leave a lot of rubbish around but that’s a furphy,” he said. “All we leave is our footprints and we dump our rubbish in the correct places.”

Mr Walsh said most older travellers were good at finding spots to pull up, away from caravan parks.

“Go out of town and there’s plenty of places on the side of the road,” he said.

  • What do you think of Geelong’s attitude towards free campers? How will this ‘Free Camping V Caravan Parks’ debate eventually play out? Comment below.

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52 Responses to Free camping grey nomads accused of flouting the law

  1. Typical media beatup.I would rather free camp than pay exorbitant park prices. If it was good value, I wouldn’t mind,but majority of c/van parks are rip offs.

    • so much money gets put back into small towns, from campers i,m doing it this yr but will plan better and stay away from geelong and any place that carrys on, most us older ones care about leaving a clean place for our gran kids, its the young who toss out their fast food rubbish everywhere, and who can aford a 300,000 camper van most are flat out on a 20,000 van sounds like a polly talking crap as thats their type of income most grey nomads are not rich but this is their once in a lift time chance of doing the big lap still at a cost any town that don,t want my money spent while i,m their speak up so i will not go geelong is now off my trip, maybe victoria bar a few nights at a van park which most will stay at 80% or more times, sounds like the victorian pollys want to make it even worst for small towns in victoria, thay do noting for them anyhow now want to scare of people even wanting to go, well thanks for the heads up,tho i,m sure when i do look better their are places which will welcome me, or whats the point even wasteing 60,000,might as well just buy that xy gt ho phase 3 do up leave it in the garage till i die for my son, and just do trips to bali and lie on the beach more next to nothing, thialand, cheap, as i get of the plane go to town and just look for a cheap room theirs always many, and i do travle cheap so now i,m re thinking all my plans,just sold my house and had plans to be doing this in a mth, but this post has rocked me maybe i,m 20 yrs to late in my own country to see it, least queensland we welcome people and the campers and have places around the state thay can stay , yep right now its a total change of plans,stay north and give south a miss, thanks for the heads up,

  2. Come to Qld in winter and count how many Victorian campers are camped in our ” free camps” ! Some council areas are very forward thinking and encourage Travellers by providing ” free camps” our Gladstone local gov area has at least three, free or low cost areas. We like most are also rate payers, so a reciprocal arrangement should exist. Victorian people are the prime users of our areas.
    In our travels,very, very rarely do we see Travellers in any rig,leave a mess, but countless times we have had local yobs,come into pull of camps , drink, yahoo, and leave a mess! And sometimes leave fires still burning.

    • I agree with you Narelle Nuffer, we just traveled for 12 months around Australia and found it was mostly the local yobbos who left their mess. And hate to say a lot of overseas backpackers as well.

    • when it comes to rubbish being left behind there are so many of the grey nomads doing their bit and cleaning up it would be far worse without us. I suggest the people complaining wander around the local parks in any area and see what the locals are doing….that is where in most instances you will find the rubbish, take a look at what sort of rubbish then go out to the rest areas…..guess what, in most cases it’s exactly the same rubbish….so I wonder who is leaving it?

      • You are rigt on – check out the rubbish coming out of taxis who are on their break.

  3. Communities offering free camping get extra business and profit. Most grey nomads don’t leave rubbish and any that do should get substantial fines and lose their licences

  4. What a load of crap. What’s wrong with people wanting and using a small piece of land to sit and sleep. They pay registration few for the vehicle to be allowed on roads to drive 24/7 if they wish, but OMG. Let them stop those wheels from rolling and immediately they are scum and breaking a contrived law that serves no purpose at all. Man and the citizens are loading a very simple and what should be a right and freedom of choice to live as he wants. There are a lot of people who don’t choose to live the same as the majority, what’s the harm? Believe me, its much cheaper for them to sleep on the side of the road under a cool tree han it is to put them on public support in housing. Leave people alone.

  5. Re- No free camping areas
    I agree 100 percent with you Steve .
    No problems with designated free camp areas either.

    What a pack of grey haired whingers!
    What a sad world we live in.. I can’t believe how unhappy are these travellers really are, and how particular and unrealistic their expectations some of them are.

    In live in a town in the far south coast of NSW. The council has enforced a no free camping policy…but this doesn’t stop some of the grey nomads from blatantly ignoring the signs and applying the “holier than thou…this doesn’t apply to me rule” They manage to use all the facilities of the sporting clubs… the ones that we raise funds for, some leave their rubbish( dog droppings, cans and crap as well as the illegal harvesting of firewood( which we have to get a permit for) It’s interesting to note they hog prime viewing positions at beaches and parks and sneak in often under cover to avoid the hours worked by enforcement officers! These guys are a law unto themselves.

    The responses to no free camping within 20km of a town and having to book into a park are dismal and petty. They don’t like this and don’t like that… grow up people

    I was always taught to respect my elders but not this lot of users…. go buy a bush block where you will have none of your long list of caravan park related problems….

    One thing is for sure … I bet your neighbours have a big smile on their faces every time they see you hitch up.
    Oh yes, if you still don’t get the point and support small Aussie towns and leave your city attitudes behind
    why don’t you let us know where you live… we’d love to come and free camp on your nature trip, use your water, leave our rubbish, complain and critique your set up
    and oh can you keep the noise down please!

    • Oh Jackie, your comments almost took my breath away. PLEASE do not label all those of us travelling this wonderful country as “Grey haired whingers”. The greatest majority of us are caring, tidy and responsible travellers. We spend in your towns for our shopping. Because some prefer to free camp, it does not make them litter-bugs, irresponsible or law-flouting – not ALL of them, I mean. Tourists in camper vans should never be lumped in with the Grey Nomad brigade. We opt for caravan parks, but also pay premium prices when playgrounds, jumping pillows etc are part of the deal, even though we never make use of them. By far, the greater majority of Grey Nomads are law-abiding, responsible and tidy travellers. Some are more vocal than others – that does not necessarily make them whingers. Sometimes, just merely asking for a fair deal brings out those who deem it as whingeing. All I am asking for, is for a more balanced comment, especially in choosing who you are jumping all over with your remarks.

    • i myself im from the south coast, i have a motorhome wich was cheaper than a caravan, i pay taxes i pay rates and i pay rego and insurance so why cant i stop where i want, enjoy the scenery and a beer while i fish by the way last trip lasted 32 days and i only free parked 5 days out of that paid and unpaid stays were all at rv friendly towns in 1 town the free camp was next to the caravan park that we were staying at so jackie grow up all of the south coast needs tourism no matter how they come or where they stay

    • hi Jackie, you must join the Grey Nomads and go to such towns as Mitchell, Morven and Surat, all in Queensland, and all encourage free and low cost camping. Mitchell is smart enough to give you reasons to stay for a minimum of 3 days. By doing this, they realise camped grey nomads spend money in the local area, on fuel, groceries and entertainment. While the grey nomads are moving, a town may only benefit from a fuel purchase.
      Also grey nomads free camping outside Barcaldine, Qld volunteer their time, helping restore and repair community properties. Some spending their winter trip, year after year, doing this volunteer work.
      After bushfires in SA, some years ago, grey nomads worked for weeks repairing the farmers fences, again volunteering their time.
      It is not a one sided argument. Grey nomads do support small towns in more ways than one. Get out and travel, you be amazed at how many nice people are on the road, both in free and paid camping.

      • Hi Bruce I agree with most of what you said except you sugested Jackie should get out and travel and meet some of us well I would not want a winging B—– out there she would spoil the atmosphere sounds ike a c/van park owner.
        maybe to any reasonable park owners or managers why dont you set aside a quiet corner for the travelling nomads we only need power and toilet showers and access to washing machines at a reasonable price we dont need the rest……. please think about it, you might be supprised

    • and what caravan park do you own?

      • looks like you on the money

    • dear Jackie, you poor soul, what do you do other than criticise what you apparently know nothing about. You have a set against people you know nothing about and can only be pitied. Keep to your well planned and paid for holidays, especially away from us.

    • Would you like me as a grey nomad to spend more ey in your shopping centre or would you just like us oldies to drive on through? Up to you!

    • Wow Jackie,you would have to be the bigot of the year (and its only just begun ).Maybe you should get out of your little box and see what the majority of travelers do for small towns and communities around this great country but then again that would be too easy for a person of your attitude toward travelers (not all travelers are nomads either).

    • I think you are talking about backpackers from overseas. How dare you talk to us like that? I think you are with the caravan parks lobby.

    • Really Jackie is the best you can do to support your argument to resort to insult and vitriol about people who you have never met. What a spiteful mean-spirited and lonely excuse for a human being you must be. Please tell me the name of the paradise town in which you live and I will gladly assist your cause by not spending any money in any local business.

    • Go where you wanna go, Do what you wanna do, See what you want to see. It’s my life and I’ll do what I wanna do without you Jackie.

    • Heh Jackie – how come your reading a column dedicated to “grey haired whingers”? Enjoy your holidays!!

    • jacki , how do you think the town you live in was founded . guess it had to be a nomad . if you are to frightened to leave home don’t fret .

  6. I agree with Gerald Young, we come from Victoria, are travelling australia, stay at free camps and work when we can get it. Currently employed at a camping ground in Sunny Queensland. Why stay in Vic and pay excessive rent and can’t get a job. Travel & work is the aim. If not working free camp, when working caravan park (and thats only for security). Went to Geelong many years ago in the motor home, not RV friendly at all. Wouldnt go back iether.

  7. With an attitude like Roger Grant’s no wonder the rest of Australia doesn’t like Victorians. Look on Wiki Camps Roger and see some of the comments about Caravan Parks in and around Melbourne. Only a couple of parks in the Melbourne Metro area I would stay at. Clean up the parks and then you might have something to whinge about. No wonder people want to free camp. Me included. And yes we are going home and probably not via Victoria.

  8. You anti nomads are just jealous because you haven’t worked long enough to earn the right to retire and enjoy what nature provides. Jealousy don’t bother me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Who reads the herald sun ?

  10. I really feel sorry for people like Jackie. Is this a free country? was the last time I looked, that’s WHY my Dad and his 2 brothers, bro-in -laws went overseas to fight a bloody war too keep us FREE so we can live in a free country. Now if someone or any one want to park or stop the night on the grass in the front of my place I say welcome

  11. Oh these poor people under a misconception that free camping Nomads expect subsidised holidays by their Council ratepayers, most of the nomads are ratepayers and importantly TAX PAYERS or had been, and these Councils receive additional Federal funding from OUR TAX MONEY! Obviously these types of people have led sheltered lives and not had any life experience, I feel sorry for them, they need to get out and follow some nomads and enjoy life! For me, we will always find a spot to camp, FOR FREE, when we can!!

  12. The grey nomads re more responsible than the current generation as they have been taught that it is our responsibility to ensure that our camp area is kept the same as it was when we arrived, but some others including overseas travellers lack these values.

  13. Why do people get ‘Freecamping Lifestylers’ and ‘Holiday makers’ mixed up? It is NOT rocket science. We are NOT on holiday! We live full time in our completely selfcontained RV’s and very few of us could afford to pay the increasingly hideous caravan park fees full time and besides.. who wants to live full time in a caravan park? No one asks yachties to live full time in a marina? or whines because they don’t buy a yacht to live in a marina… you don’t by a ‘self contained’ rig to live in a caravan park people. geezzz… leave us to live our retirement as we want to. We’ve probably put more into our national economy than most of those making adverse and insensible comment here.

  14. Last time I looked we live in the “Commonwealth” of Australia. The people of Australia own the public land not the tourism group nor the incorporated councils nor any other whining bunch of killjoys. Our forebears fought for our freedoms so my advice to any who oppose our freedoms is to bugger off and mind your own business and be careful what freedoms you wish to curtail because yours will be next.

  15. If you stayed in caravan parks around Australia for 1 year at a average price $30 per night powered the cost would be $10,.920.00 not to mention cost of living and fuel cost .So whats the problem with some people just because we would like to see this country and free camp and stay in caravan parks were possible to keep the dream alive and not to mention the bank balance life is to short so enjoy while you are able

  16. We cannot afford the average $210 per week for van parks so we use a combination of both. Camp 7 is our travelling bible and if we hear of a place that is not RV friendly we don’t stop. Tasmania has an excellent combination of both free camping and Van Parks at reasonable prices. NSW Coastal and Vic are shockers. Most country towns welcome the extra $ and covet both free campers and van park tenants.

    • So true and there should be more local council who will do the same, some are still shockers when it comes to tourists, etc..

    • There should be more local council who will do the same, some are still shockers when it comes to tourists, etc..

  17. Which councils aren’t RV friendly? Wouldn’t want to waste my time o
    r finances supporting their local businesses

  18. The free/low cost camping issue is a very complex one which is not helped by a lack of hard research to assist people wanting to form a balanced picture and conclusions. Thus, on the one hand, we have caravan ‘grey nomads’ who are labelled ‘free loading whingers’ and, on the other, some caravan park owners who are alleged to be feathering their own nests by pressuring councils to shut out free or low cost camping. Whilst caravan parks need to be able to run a viable business in the face of considerable cost pressures there is also a need to make camping provision for people on a low income or pension since caravan parks in some areas are very expensive.
    It is sad when, according to a news report from a major Victorian coastal tourist area, those standing up for free or low cost camping are told to ‘go away’. Parks Victoria has completed a virtual shut out for them by imposing very high fees on anything with a sniff of sea air.
    Thankfully the RV friendly towns around the country have demonstrated – supported by what appears to be hard data – that it is possible to have a win-win outcome in which both the caravaners and the caravan parks benefit. This is gratifying, however, there needs to be more research work done so that the key problems can be better understood by all the stakeholders.

  19. Poor Jackie………..only feel pity for you. Have toured on a motorcycle numerous times from the Gong back into Victoria and was looking forward to showing my wife that lovely area of Australia. Obviously as campers / caravanners we’re not welcome, according to you. So be it, we’ll just go somewhere else where we’ll be made welcome. We free-camp where suitable(especially in WA) but also use smaller (friendlier) caravan parks on occasion. I don’t want / like the BIG parks that are generally over-populated and over-priced so choose not to stay there……easy. Each to their own. Have met some terrific people in both areas but have also seen some Wayne Kerr’s as well. Don’t stress the small stuff….we’re a long time dead……….Que Sera Sera 🙂

  20. Just recently we stayed at Berri at Martin Bend for nearly 3 weeks at a cost of a whole $5 a night, during which time we spent approx $1200+ in fuel, groceries, coffee, beer and a couple of nights out, thus spreading money throughout the community. If wenhad stayed at the caravan park at $35 pn, we would have only stayed 3 nights and the town would have dipped out on $900+. We don’t mind paying, we will pay, but we want value for money, we don’t want to take out a mortgage on our house for a stay at a caravan park. Berri gave us that freedom of choice and so do a lot of other cou cils by opening up showgrounds, etc. They give us FREEdom of choice and I return we spend in their town. Call it FREEdom camping, not free and we would be closer to the point. Oh, and by the way we don’t have a $300, 000 rig…$50, 000 including tow vehicle is closer to the point and I would be willing to be that the majority of nomads are the same

  21. If Caravan parks would charge $50 per week for power, shower and toilets they would all be full instead of empty for 10 months if the year.

  22. Played a big role in my career. Thank you for the knowledge.

  23. I am new to RV’ing in Australia. I have travelled extensively in Europe where I ‘free’ camped and used campsites. Over there they call it wilding and some people will allow RV’s on their properties free if it is just camping or a minimal charge if power and water are required. In our over regulated country I doubt that would be allowed by the pen pushers in councils and government.

    I was delighted to find the RV friendly signs outside of towns around Australia, access to water, toilets and in some cases hot showers.
    How people can believe that I am using ‘thier’ rates or taxes beggars belief.
    I pay rates, I pay taxes. As a teacher for many years I was frequently told “I pay your wages” often by people that paid considerably less tax than me or were on a benefit.

    I dont deny that if some stranger parked his van on the road outside my house and camped their I would be annoyed, I dont believe this happens anyway.

    If parks had reasonable pricing systems people would use them but sadly like all business in the western world “greed” is the driving force.

    I am just rambling here so I shal stop now 🙂

  24. I am new to RV’ing in Australia. I have travelled extensively in Europe where I ‘free’ camped and used campsites. Over there they call it wilding and some people will allow RV’s on their properties free if it is just camping or a minimal charge if power and water are required. In our over regulated country I doubt that would be allowed by the pen pushers in councils and government.

    I was delighted to find the RV friendly signs outside of towns around Australia, access to water, toilets and in some cases hot showers.
    How people can believe that I am using ‘thier’ rates or taxes beggars belief.
    I pay rates, I pay taxes. As a teacher for many years I was frequently told “I pay your wages” often by people that paid considerably less tax than me or were on a benefit.

    I dont deny that if some stranger parked his van on the road outside my house and camped their I would be annoyed, I dont believe this happens anyway.

    If parks had reasonable pricing systems people would use them but sadly like all business in the western world “greed” is the driving force.

    I am just rambling here so I shal stop now 🙂

  25. My husband and I were thinking of joining you guys, but the Jackies of this world worry me.
    I agree we are of the generation that were taught not to leave our rubish for some one else to pick up.
    O to hell with it my husband and I will join you great nomads and annoy the Jackie’s of this world. What a misery.
    See you on the road guys.

  26. I agree with a few that you don’t buy a fully self contained rig whether it be a slide on truck camper, caravan, motorhome just to park on top of someone else with no privacy, yapping dogs, noisy kids and adults, blinding lights when trying to sleep, not to mention having to stow everything away in case it gets stolen in a CARAVAN PARK

  27. I have been doing a lot of reading about all this as I recently purchased a campervan and to be honest I am expecting issues due to being a pensioner and on my own and the want/need to avoid the over priced caravan parks. From what my research tells me, their not actually issuing fines for you camping in rest areas as they actually can’t do that as camping is not defined in law. The fine they impose is for not obeying a sign erected by council, which is a workaround. They are doing this under the Local  Government Act 1993 (NSW) the fines imposed are outlined here

    Apparenlty in the act it is written where it is legal and safe to park (unless there is signage stating otherwise) you can sleep and rest in your vehicle as and under N.S.W law it is allowed. I haven’t gone through the whole act as it is heavy reading but believe this info to be true as I got it from a legal site where others have been discussing the topic and asking the solicitors. I hope this knowledge helps everyone and if you can add anything to add to it please do as I am gather that a lot of the councils are merely bluffing people with bullS*** in order to move them on and into highly priced caravan parks. Spread this knowledge around as you travel as he who does not know the rules will always be shafted by them in life, as I’m sure you all know by.

  28. No better place than collingullie pub. For free camping great food n hospiitality water on sites twenty Ks west of Wagga cheers

  29. I own a 6 acre property and encourage travellers to use it as a safe haven for short stays for a token donation. I am a member of an organisation that encourages people to use member sites all over Australia. If you are a member you can virtually free camp safely all round this country.

  30. Even if we are no longer working or own property, we all still pay our rates. Everything we purchase, included in the price, the retailer passes on their costs of rent for the property they rent for their business, utilities and, oh yes, rates as well. Never accuse the grey nomad of not paying rates because we do. Stop being so petty and try thanking us for the fuel we purchase, the groceries we buy, the haircuts, vets fees and entertainment. Get a life, one like ours and learn to appreciate us more.

  31. Stop the backpackers and I guarantee you will see a significant drop in the trash being left behind in rest areas and free camps. The grey nomads are sick (literally) of cleaning up after these ‘people’!

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