“Now you camp for free … and now you can’t!”

Published: August 6, 2015

It was good while it lasted … but the days of free camping at the racecourse in the WA town of Port Hedland have already come to a shuddering halt.

Just weeks after the town’s mayor credited it with being responsible for a major increase in visitor numbers, free camping for self-contained travellers has ended.

“All the feedback and surveys that have been received have said that they wouldn’t have stayed,” said mayor, Kelly Howlett, at the end of June . “They weren’t going to visit, they weren’t going to stay, but now they’ve actually changed their mind.”

With many caravan parks in Western Australia’s north west asking more than $50 per night it is no wonder that grey nomads reacted enthusiastically to the racecourse camping option.

“We would have just bought groceries and fuel and kept going normally, but we will stop and see and spend in this town,” said Sue W at the time. “If only all Shire Councils woke up to this!”

However, the Port Hedland Visitor Centre reports that it is now ‘festival season’ and so the free camping offer has been withdrawn.

A spokesperson said it was unclear when – or if – the facility would be open to grey nomads and other travellers again. She said the council would be meeting again in a few weeks, but that the season would be all but over at that stage.

The council’s original decision to allow free camping at the racecourse came under heavy fire from the caravan industry, which said it was using ratepayers’ money to unfairly  compete against caravan parks.  Port Hedland’s free campground was also blamed in some quarters for a major downturn in visitors to the neighbouring Pilbara city of Karratha.

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Suzanne Campbell
7 years ago

Ho hum,
off the list again !

Annette Brook
7 years ago

So sad to hear that Port Headland free camp has been closed. Another win for the caravan parks?? And loss for the travellers. Luckily we passed through this area after 1 Oct and were able to stay at Cleaverville for free while we waited for mail to arrive in Karratha. We refused to pay the exorbitant rates at the Karratha parks and stayed as long as we could at the Dampier community park. Like other travellers, if we can stay somewhere for a modest cost, we will spend up in the local coffee shops and attractions. But if our only option is to pay $50 or more, we will just drive on.

It’s time that there was a no frills caravan park chain that caters for the nomads where we don’t have to pay for jumping castles etc that we certainly do not need. All we need is power, water, dump point, hot and cold showers and maybe a laundry.

Peter Constable
7 years ago

Caravan Parks own greed is driving heaps of people into rest areas.
$50 a night indeed.
The downturn in the mining Industry will bring the Caravan Parks back with their tail between their legs when they have to reduce their prices after the Miners leave the area.

Fuzzball
7 years ago

What do you think about FREE Camping? Why don’t the councils in WA offer reduced price camping? Don’t they realise that we, the Grey Nomads, spend money in the town, just like anyone else?

In Kununurra you can rent a two bedroom unit cheaper than you can stay in the caravan park. I’m not talking about small dollars here. The two bedroom unit costs $350 per week, and the caravan park for a powered site is $413 for the three of us. That’s daylight robbery!

Now, even factoring in electricity for the unit, it would still cost you less to rent a unit than owning your own caravan, and paying for a very small area to park it. It’s sad when you can buy a cemetery plot cheaper than you can stay in this small town.

If sites were cheaper, most people who “illegal camp” would choose to stay there, in preference to being hounded by the Rangers. Think back to the Jolly Swagman…boy, would he be in trouble!!!

We are stuck in a town for the next twelve days with no way of paying the exorbitant rates demanded by caravan park owners…all because our toilet window fell out on the road, and we’re waiting on a replacement to come from the manufacturer. That pretty much takes all of our finances for the next couple of weeks.

I’ve ALWAYS been a law abiding citizen, but I’m really starting to question why. We were doing nothing wrong…just parked on the side of the road out of everybody’s way because we had no other choice. I thought that this country was supposed to be the lucky country, but it appears that our freedoms are being eroded at a very rapid pace! The only people who have no rights in this country are the “white Australians”.

The local Kununurra paper talks about “Illegal Camping”, as if people camping on the roadsides are the scourge of the century.
If there was somewhere cheaper to stay, people wouldn’t need to FREE camp. Councils wake up to the needs of travellers!

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