Where the bloody hell are the nomads going to go?

Grey nomads crowded camping

The surging popularity of the grey nomad lifestyle is helping to create a caravan park capac­ity ‘crisis’.

A new academic study has found that rather than expand­ing capacity to keep pace with the surging demand, caravan park numbers have plunged alarmingly.

“‘Where the bloody hell are all the caravanners going to go?” asked the research paper’s author, Rod Caldicott from Southern Cross University. “Nationwide there are 10% less caravan parks than there were 15 years ago and that at a time when demand for RVs has gone through the roof.”

The statistics are startling. There are now 474,000 RVs registered in Australia and the numbers are climbing steeply.

Of course, developers building on prime locations has been a big factor in falling van park numbers, but Mr Caldicott says ‘outdated’ planning regulations are stopping new parks spring­ing up to meet demand.

The academic’s study also focused on the changing site mix within van parks and their apparent ‘segmentation’.

“Some owners looking for re­turn on investment are building family friendly parks with wa­ter parks and jumping pillows and all the rest,” Mr Caldicott told the grey nomads website. “However, many grey nomads just want a nice patch of grass to park their self-contained vehicles for the night, and perhaps pay $10.”

So how will the ‘crisis’ resolve itself? Mr Caldicott says it is very much a case of going back to the future.

“It all started in this country with people finding a nice spot and freedom camping by a riverbank or behind the sand dunes,” he said. “But then more and more people came and there was rubbish left, and people going to the toilet in the bushes, and damaging trees by tying ropes to them, and it needed to be regulated and so caravan parks sprung up.”

However, with the move back to freedom camping, Mr Cal­dicott predicts some ‘hidden’ gems will become choc a bloc and the whole ‘who is going to fix the roads, who is going to take the rubbish out?’ cycle will begin again.

“I predict that in five years’ time today’s popular freedom camping spots will be regulated in some way by government,” he said. “There is going to be a growing demand for gov­ernment supplied, low-cost patches of grass.”

Mr Caldicott also suggests that more new caravan parks will be built away from tourism hot spots, and we will also see security fences and boom gates being put up at city centre car parks where self-contained travellers will be free to spend the night.

Basically, he says, when de­mand reaches a certain point, entrepreneurs find a solution.

“You are seeing a backlash from some commercial caravan parks now and they are calling for freedom camping spots to be shut down,” he said. “But you can’t stop people … it is a tradition that dates back to the swagman days


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