Popular free camping spot forces van park closure

Published: December 15, 2015
Grey nomads debate closure of caravan park as free camping surges

A Tasmanian caravan park owner has closed his business down because he says it is being killed by free camping.

Gavin Imlach from the Latrobe Mersey River Caravan Park in Latrobe south of Devonport  claims the local council is not abiding by its own by-laws in allowing free camping area at a nearby overflow car park.

The free campsite was set up several years ago to reduce the amount of people setting up camp on the side of the road. However,oever following objections from Mr Imlach,  the council joined forces with the Latrobe Lions Club to charge campers $10 per night to stay at the site.  When the fee was introduced, the number of visitors to the new site dropped by 50%.

However, the arrangement between the council and the Lions Club had now ended and, with free camping back on the agenda, Mr Imlach says visitor numbers at his park have plummeted.

He told the Latrobe Advocate that his caravan park, which has the capacity for 50 sites, is averaging less than one caravan per night.

“My insurance policy is due and it is a large sum of money, it’s not a wise investment at the current rate of occupation and without insurance I cannot have occupants,” he said. “The service clubs aren’t able to manage their park 24 hours a day, seven days a week like I do here. How do they evict people that aren’t compliant? A lady at the Lions Club is not going to enforce the law.”

The council is reportedly now seeking to arrange a new service club to collect the $10 camping fee in place of the Lions Club.

While Mr Imlach says he has had to let his staff go because “we sit here all day every day with no customers”, he has not given up hope of re-opening his park.

“I’m waiting for the bureaucratic circles to come around and comply,” he told the Latrobe Advocate. “Until then, I’m not willing to invest in insurance.”

* Do you sympathise with the caravan park owner? Should campers have to pay a $10 overnight fee? Comment below.

35 Comments
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Julie Davies
5 years ago

If ‘some’ caravan park owners made their CP more attractive and cost effective for self contained or semi self contained grey nomads then they might be more amendable to staying in their parks. Most Grey Nomads don’t need the playgrounds, pools and even the toilet and shower is not used by all. They just want basic amenities. Another CP owner trying to force people to use their expensive facilities and not have freedom of choice.

Jennifer Eurell
5 years ago
Reply to  Julie Davies

I stayed in this CP and had no complaints about it at all – it is a small, very straightforward tidy park without all the frills. Can’t remember the price but is wasn’t exorbitant if we stayed there! The free camp was $10 at the time in a carpark with the loos closed at night. It was close to the shops – the CP is close to the river. It is not that we don’t free camp, but I also feel that it is’ ‘use it or lose it’ where CPs are concerned.

Dave
5 years ago

Well said Jennifer, nothing is free somewhere someone will pay.

Bill Riches
5 years ago

Once again a caravan park owner is blaming free camping for his demise. How much is he charging a night versus $10 a night for a freebie.

Gerald
5 years ago

It’s fairly obvious that people vote with their feet and wallet! I liken this to a restaurant trying to force people to eat at their business by getting council to make them stop cooking at home. Freedom of choice, where did it go?

Graham
5 years ago
Reply to  Gerald

I think that a more valid analogy might be ‘just like cooking on the footpath’.

Motherhen
5 years ago
Reply to  Gerald

Spot on analogy Gerald. What’s more there was always free camping on Bells Parade near the river until the caravan park started up close by and complained.

Ray Brooks
5 years ago

I agree with Julie to some extent. however, being somebody who now free camps and often as possible and also being a person who was chairman of the board of a large council run caravan park in a large NSW regional city during the nineties, I can see both sides of the story. Firstly, the cost of maintaining a caravan park can be prohibitive and the majority of caravan parks do not charge excessive fees, except the peak season in tourist areas. They must remain competitive or they will not survive. They must try and maintain a balance between making some return on their investment and staying afloat.
Secondly, grey nomads do not have exclusive use of caravan parks. They are also there for families. Facilities need to provided for families as well, including swimming pools etc. If nearby parks have these facilities and you, as the operator of a park don’t have these facilities, once again, you will not be able to compete. All these amenities come at a cost. During my period as chairman I was instrumental in the park installing a pool and playground equipment for children as three of the other four parks in the city had them. We were losing customers to the other parks because we did not have family friendly facilities.
By all means embrace free camping, however In my opinion there does need to be restrictions on where it is to occur. I do not think an overflow car park in town is appropriate. Local councils should not be in the business of putting legitimate local businesses “out of business”.

Philby
5 years ago
Reply to  Ray Brooks

There is a long long history to this episode and a lesson that if you are going to invest do your homework properly.No sympathy here.

Dazz
5 years ago
Reply to  Ray Brooks

Well said. A very balanced view.
In my opinion free camps should be out of town.
It seems to be free campers want facilities such as water, rubbish collection and dump points in the towns at very little or no cost.
I love to free camp out, but away from the towns.
cheers Daz

Rod Booth
5 years ago
Reply to  Ray Brooks

If you use the facility provided, you pay , if you don’t use it , you don’t pay for it. There can be a way to provide a service for both sides of the camper, you just need to plan and execute the plan properly.

Reg Reichel
5 years ago
Reply to  Ray Brooks

Ray, I note that you are now a member of the free camping fraternity. Welcome aboard. This after being high up in managing a caravan park. My partner and I rarely stay in a van park any more because we cannot afford most of them nor need them. Can you can now appreciate why cash strapped nomads, who also despise school holiday periods price rises, do what you are now doing? Being asked to pay often over $50 per night for a site in most of the BIG NAME BRAND parks, just to squeeze into a space barely large enough for a little old van built years ago (before today’s larger dual axle vans) as being a bit rich? I guess you do otherwise you wouldn’t free camp. Most cp’s now have more ensuite barracks than van sites.

I like to remember little towns like Kimba in SA when I think of caring for the tourist. At least 3 free parking areas within the town (2 with showers from memory) as well as a TOP BRAND CP which caters for those who want that facility. Well done Kimba community groups and Council. Might I suggest that the Latrobe people give that Council a tingle. Your tourism could just possibly benefit and a compromise made with the local CP. Good luck.

Dave
5 years ago
Reply to  Ray Brooks

Hi Ray, the expectations of the free camping brigade is way beyond reason. Now we have councils kowtowing to certain groups just to get a RV friendly sign. Camping has never an issue with me even free or low fee camping but I do support reasonably priced cps.what really bugs me is shopping centre parking. If councils had any brain(big ask) they would make there own RV sign showing parking areas, cp and private camping sites,family friendly sites and cps.

John Rodgers
5 years ago

Well!! Well!!! Well!!! when we visited Tassie some 3 years ago, I must say that we were very disappointed with the poor quality of many many of the Caravan parks on the small Island.
Any wonder that people would prefer to choice an alternation style of accommodation.
Tassie is a great tourist destination, but lack a lot in the C.Park stakes.
John Rodgers

Philby
5 years ago
Reply to  John Rodgers

Over 15 years we have travelled in Tasmania more than 15 times for between 2_4 months in a motorhome. Tassie had the best range of free or low cost camps in Australia. We do not like caravan parks , too crowded, paying for facilities we will not use etc. The whole joy of Tassie is its attitude to free camping in beautiful places enjoyed especially by the locals since time immemorial and shared with their mainland cousins.Why should any person or beaurecrat be allowed to remove a tradition that has been part of Tasmania since before 1800.

Steve Baxter
5 years ago
Reply to  Philby

Hi Philby – I doubt that the tradition of free camping for tourists in Tassie existed before !800 – Hobart wasn’t settled until 1806 with the first boatload of Europeans from Norfolk Island !!!!

Arthur Bugden
5 years ago

It is noted this park is one of the four in Tasmania that kicked up the stink with the regulator re “competitive neutrality” and caused all that drop off in Tasmanian tourism a few year back. There is a lot more behind this story than meets the eye.

Philby
5 years ago
Reply to  Arthur Bugden

Correct Arthur a lot lot more and there are lots of us with long memories.

annie
5 years ago

The so called free camp is not free at La tribe, it used to be but there is a charge per night now. That caravan park from my memory was over priced back three years ago when I stayed in Tassie for 4 months,. Caravan Parks need to be researched before setting up or building more cabins etc.

pete
5 years ago

another caravan park business is blaming every one else +free camping..when in business that’s the way it goes.

Philby
5 years ago

This would be the same person who when free camping was available at the axeman’s hall of fame built a caravan park just across the road then complained about the free camp. I along with others swore I would never stay in that park even if it was the last one on earth. Good riddance.

Kaye Walker
5 years ago
Reply to  Philby

I totally agree with Philby. This owner has done nothing but winge ever since he built the caravan park and even went as far as menacing the free campers who dared to free camp along the river. The park closure is no loss to the community.

bop
5 years ago

I recently was free camping, one issue I had was dump points- the nearest was over 100km away (nth nsw)
There were 5 caravan parks in the same town- but all were stay there (some for a minimum of 3 days) before you could use their dumppoint or even get water
I have no issues about paying for a dump point, but when its comes to close to $100 to empty the dark watertank- that its actually cheaper to drive the 100km rather than use the local parks…

It would be interesting to see if an idea I had a while back would be profitable- household owners have a `cash and drop’ dump point accessible on their property- a coin operated dump point – all it needs is a rather simple and cheap coin mech and a locking dump point connected to the household sewerage system
Has to be better than whats currently available

nick
5 years ago

As our vans get more and more self contained, the bleating of caravan park owners reminds me very much of Uber and the taxis.
There is room for both but in the end they are both a service and if the service doesn’t appeal to the customers then they will fail

Dave
5 years ago
Reply to  nick

Sheer greed was rampant back in the so called mining boom ,remember the mines and government spruking that it was going to last for 15 to 20 years. Well we all can see how that went. Just go to Karratha. Reality has arrived. Start supporting local businesses or things will get worse and as we all know with the government it will you and me who who will pay not the mining companies or the government. The past is gone people get with the NOW

Tony LEE
5 years ago

From ‘The Fee Dictionary’

What(ever) goes around, comes around.
Prov. The results of things that one has done will someday have an effect on the person who started the events. So he finally gets to see the results of his activities. What goes around, comes around. Now he is the victim of his own policies. Whatever goes around comes around.

Dave
5 years ago

The mining boom is over people’s, the federal state and local governments now relies that tourism is one of the things that may help with economic mess they are in. Guess what is now becoming a big issue,free camping. As was explained to me they want more caravan parks not less. If a caravan owner doesn’t relies then they deserve what happens. So enjoy it while you can. Continue to support the small towns and villages with no cps that supply areas for camping

Roger Lowry
5 years ago

Now the Question was….
Do you support the $10 per night fee.
If it is per rig regardless of the no of persons you betcha I do.
As a Grey Nomad that free or low cost camps I welcome the small charge for the upkeep of these facilities.
Whilst I feel for the Caravan Park owner this is true competition for low grade sites.

Dave
5 years ago
Reply to  Roger Lowry

Definitely competition, what Is the outlay to keep for site running, caravan park $ 20000 licence fee, $50000 plus ,pay for employees , power,water general maintainence, just regards insurance, where do you stand if you had an accident at this site? Yep I can see the fairness there.

Dave
5 years ago

One of the local councils has put in a free camping site in town because it will bring in more money.If a cp. goes under the town will loose in veracity of 1 million dollars. Here’s the catch, you have to be fully self contained per a certain RV groups rules. If this was enforced how many places would be used? The average travelling doesn’t get any benefit just a bunch of elitists. State governments will step in if a local business is in jeopardy. We all know where that will lead. As for the past how many of you own Japanese and German vehicles.

Dave
5 years ago

I ment to add, I have approached several cp owners in the area and suggested they include a couple of basic sites for self contained rigs. They seem to be receptive to that idea.

mitch
5 years ago

we have managed parks for a number of years and the ones we have have been in are quite profitable . If I had a park in an area where there was a lot of free camping .I’d open up sites to free campers at a much reduced rate and let them use the showers and dump site but no power . We currently CH people off the street for a shower and ch $5 to use the dump point so what the heck . Cater for everyone . No use having an empty park and CHing top dollar .Incidently we own a SC van and travel a lot we stay both in parks and free camp where its a nice spot .

Dave
5 years ago
Reply to  mitch

Hi Mitch, you would understand the cost involved in owning a caravan park. How do they compete fairly with a council supplied cheap site? The ratepayers are paying and I bet a lot don’t know it. Another thing, what is self contained and for how long. I do not defending the idiot cps that, are overpriced, elitist or those fools that do not have overnight sites, We can only hope they are learning the lessons.

Ben
3 years ago

What a load of cow poo, these criminals called van parks are full to the brim even though they charge way to much.
Don’t expect people to believe that the minority that seek out the free camp spots would ever even stay at a van park.
What about the people that are financially stretch to the point of its free camping or no camping.
Most businesses fail due to miss management by the owner, try lowering your fees before you go broke, simples.

Ross wood
3 years ago

There are thousands of acres of showgrounds, state forests, recreation reserves, national parks, land council properties and private holdings throughout Australia that are suitable for low cost camping. The time has come for the Nomads to come together with the Administrators and Owners of such to set up properly run low cost camping and take away the uncertainty of camping and dumping in the wrong place.

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