Can Queensland end the curse of ghost camping in its national parks?

Published: May 13, 2024

As the popularity of caravanning and camping booms, the Queensland Government has released the findings of studies into how three of the state’s most popular natural areas will be a managed into the future … and they offer plenty of clues as to how the traveller experience might eventually change across the country.

The Sustainable Visitor Capacity Management Study anticipated that the surge in visitor numbers to Cooloola Recreation Area, Bribie Island, and Fraser Island would continue … and it saw challenges ahead.

The State Government said balancing the expected growth in visitation and the competing demands for access and use of the areas and visitor safety and experiences with, the conservation of the area’s natural and cultural values would require careful planning.

Importantly though, it also said it would not endorse any increase to fees and charges to access the parks due to ‘the current cost of living pressures’.

However, the Government said options to maintain sustainable visitor numbers at peak periods were under consideration at some locations, and this could mean regulating vehicle numbers on the 20 busiest days of the year.

A Department of Environment, Science and Innovation spokesperson told the GNT that the Government was currently developing a new online camping and vehicle access booking system which would improve its capacity to monitor, regulate and report on total visitor numbers.

“The new system will enhance our decision-making about overall and individual site capacities,” the spokesperson said.

And most grey nomads will be delighted to hear that a regulatory review has been launched to identify ways to prevent the practice of ghost camping bookings, and to support appropriate controls to be developed in a new camping booking system.

“Should the regulatory review identify additional or ongoing issues in relation to ghost camping bookings, and following an evaluation of the effectiveness of the systems and process enhancements in the new camping and vehicle access booking system, the Queensland Government will consider further regulatory change if required,” the spokesperson told the Grey Nomads.

The Government said that an Automatic Number Plate Recognition System was one of the tools it used at the three locations to ensure full compliance with Vehicle Access Permit purchase requirements, and to help it better understand and manage total vehicle numbers.

When asked by the Grey Nomads whether having more rangers was the most effective way of combatting any ‘issues’, the spokesperson said this was already happening.

“Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service carries out regular patrols and compliance operations across Cooloola, Bribie Island and K’gari, often in partnership with external agencies including the Queensland Police Service to increase visibility and collaborative efforts,” the spokesperson said.

The public will have the opportunity to offer feedback on the draft management plans starting late this month.

  • Do you think rangers are a visible enough presence at the national park campsites you have stayed at across the country? Comment below.

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Dogs should be allowed in the camping areas of nat parks. This will start the never ending war but after living in the bush and travelling with our dog to lots of bush areas I am yet to see hard evidence well behaved I think licenced obedience trained dogs do any harm or scare off the wildlife any more than the humans.

Unfortunately it’s the untrained owners of some dogs that think the rules don’t apply to them that ruin it for everyone.

Happened to us. We booked and found people on the site. Rebooked and went back found another person on that site at Blackdown Tablelands. Solution would be if the Rangers did their job this wouldn’t happen. Ranger turned up everyday we were there but was obviously not policing the system

We haven’t seen a “real” ranger in a Victorian national park for many years.
Parks Victoria don’t have anywhere near as many staff as they had years ago.
Staff numbers were slashed from what they were at in the 70’s & 80’s.
These days all we see is a workman clearing the ash out of the fireplaces.

Have a look how the usa and Canada do their parks grounds. sites with a post and copy of in and out time. auditied by the ranger twice a day.

Ranger should check to make. sure that campers have portable toilets while camping on teewah beach and are actually using them. Also would like to campfire ban lifted and campers made to use portable fire pits


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