‘It’s a difficult balancing act … but free camp had to go’

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free camp area closes
The council's decision to close a free camping area sparked a backlash. PIC: Shire of Plantagenet

When a West Australian council announced recently that it was to close a popular free camping area in order to boost the trade of local caravan parks hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, it sparked a huge backlash from many travellers.

However, the president of the Plantagenet Shire Council, Cr Chris Pavlovich, has now sought to explain why the site at Mount Barker was shut … and to reassure grey nomads that it will just be a temporary measure.

“Due to Covid-19 many tourist businesses in Plantagenet are in a dire financial position,” he said. “The local caravan parks have been hit hard and council has resolved to give them support by suspending free overnight camping for self-contained vehicles in the town centre.”

Cr Pavlovich said he understood that not all travellers used caravan parks, and that many retirees were travelling on tight budgets.

“This one site has been suspended for overnight parking until the end of this year,” he said. “At that point, the suspension will be lifted and the site available again … this site however is always available for parking during the day for travellers to rest and enjoy the local attractions.”

Acknowledging that several local businesses would be affected by the closure, Cr Pavlovich said a number of retailers had lobbied for the opening of the site back in 2014, and had continued to press for it to be allowed to remain.

“Council is very much aware of the power of social networks and the delicate balancing act in the overall big picture,” said Cr Pavlovich. “Our community needs both local business and that of tourists to sustain our economic viability … we sincerely wish this short-term inconvenience will be acceptable when our local caravan parks can sustain some vital cash flow.”

He said the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis had put many tourist providers into crisis mode and that they had seen hardly any income for many months.

“The rest of 2020 may be a bit uncertain, however we do look into the future with more to offer visitors to our region,” said Cr Pavlovich. “The Plantagenet Shire is investing big on capital projects to attract and entertain visitors to our town in the future.”

He said that, as a ‘small token’, the caravan park in the town centre was offering $15 fees for self-contained travellers.

“Hopefully, most grey nomads will appreciate this small fee for a lovely grassed area in a quiet location close to all amenities our community has to offer,” said Cr Pavolvich. “In 2021, we will be back to normal and with upgraded mural trails, lookouts and other local enhancements to make your visit one to remember whilst visiting the Amazing South Coast.”

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11 Responses to ‘It’s a difficult balancing act … but free camp had to go’

  1. I’m glad that the CP is offering a reduced rate for self contained vehicles. This will allow a lot more low cost campers in town and other businesses to gain well needed funding with people still spend ton town. Well done Mt Barker Shire

  2. I guess that council will have to close the local park where grey nomads eat their self cooked lunch.
    To give the cafes in town business. Same principle as banning campers.

  3. A good move Mt Barker caravan park in allowing self-contained campers to stay at a lower cost, thus catering for “freedom” campers as well as those who prefer to use the park facilities. We ourselves use caravan parks, low cost community parks, & free parks depending on where we are travelling. Any money that can be put into a struggling community is a good thing.

  4. Why pay if you are self contained, like saying i cooked a nice meal but you have to pay the local milkbar a fee to eat it. It FREEDOM of Choice.

  5. This sounds great in theory but, why not have the best of both worlds. Keep the cheaper sites available at the caravan park for the self contained travellers that want some security without paying a fortune, but also keep the free camping site open for those travellers that will never pay for caravan parks. The council runs the risk of alienating travellers that would normally stop overnight and spend money at other businesses but now say that they will just by-pass the town all together. Councils need to understand that not everyone will use their caravan parks and it does not matter that they close down free camp sites these travellers will just keep going until they find somewhere else that will allow them. In the meantime other local businesses loose out on the money that these freedom travellers would otherwise spend there. This decision just doesn’t make sense, ooh and i do not freedom camp i only ever stay in CP, but cannot see what is achieved by closing these sites.

  6. Keep the free camp open, as we all showed patience during the pandemic that patience needs to continue with business owners, there are pockets of the travelling population that will use CPs, some that will use Motels, and those like us that will only use free camps, closing that camp will change nothing, nothing, we all spend money in the community regardless of where we stay.
    Keep the camp open place a box at the park for users to place their receipts to monitor the money in the town.
    There is a very good reason for the expression, “dont cut off your nose to spite your face “

  7. Stopped over for some lunch at the Mingenew Bakery and noticed no prices on any items so i asked how much are the pies and the lady said $6.50 for a pie that was between a party pie and a normal sized one so i passed on that and asked how much the salad rolls were and they were $8.90 with rolls smaller size smaller than kids Maccas Burgers so I never asked the price of anything else so lost me and no stopping there again.

  8. And you really think this is gonna make people go to the Caravan Park ?
    I’m betting they won’t get anymore customers than usual, Mt Barker will unfortunately just be a bypass road with the inclusion of the outstanding Bakery as the only stop…Sad sad sad

  9. Maybe it’s time for people to stop whinging and just get on with travelling in the manner they enjoy. We are so lucky in this country compared to many others. Much better to get out in whichever way we like to travel and just appreciate what our country can deliver.

  10. Free campers seem to forget that a council is responsible for the black water dumps provided in most towns. Where do many free campers get their water from? The local showground, a service station or where the Tourist information tells them watwr is available. Bet they dont pay for that either.. $15 sounds like a very good deal to me. We paid $10 two days ago in Cowell South Aust to stay in a council operated camp, no facilities other than a dodgy small water tank . So $15 with all facilities sounds very good value to me0

    • The $15.00 charge is for self contained vehicles and gives access to the dump point only.. For a powered site with access to the facilities is $30.00

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