National park fee shock

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National park camping fees on the rise
"One night at a basic campsite, please."

Visiting Australia’s magnificent national parks is a key feature of most grey nomad adventures … but rising entrance fees and camping costs could be frightening many away.

It has just been revealed that the cost of visiting one of South Australia’s oldest parks, Belair, will rise more than 50% in three years … and it won’t be the only park where it happens.

Innes National Park and Lincoln National Park will also face above-inflation rate fee rises as South Australia’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) tries to meet strict revenue targets.

Vehicle entry prices at Belair rose from $8.50 to $11 in 2011, and visitor numbers tumbled by 7% with just 23,800 cars passing the gates instead of the previous 25,600. As entry prices rise this year to $12, and to $13 next year, even more people are expected to stay away. A further 1.2% fall in visitor numbers is predicted. However, the DENR says it’s not just rising prices that are to blame.

“There are lots of other things going on in the economy that affect people’s visiting habits,” the department’s chief executive, Allan Holmes, told Parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee.  “When you think about it … $11 or $12 for a car with two or three people in it … if you compare that with, say, an admission to a film … it’s still pretty good value for money.”

He says that a significant amount of investment has also recently gone into the improvement of the Belair visitor experience.

South Australia is certainly not the only state or territory where the ‘fairness’ of the national park fee structure has been called into question.

At the Northern Territory’s Kakadu National Park, a policy of charging all adult interstate visitors $25 for a 14-day park pass, while entry for NT residents is free, has caused resentment among some grey nomads. Another bone of contention is that while all under-16s are given free Kakadu admission, there is currently no discount at all for seniors or pensioners.

While a few extra dollars may be neither here nor there to the occasional camper, it can be a crushing blow to grey nomads who ‘live’ on the road.


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