Power of ‘grey grapevine’ forces free camp re-think

Published: April 13, 2015

Towns in Victoria and elsewhere are scrambling to emphasise their grey nomad friendly credentials as the power of the grey grapevine starts to hit local economies.

Last week, Warrnambool’s tourism services manager, Peter Abbott, was forced into damage control after a storm of negative online comment put the Great Ocean Road town on many travellers’ ‘do-not-stop’ list. But Mr Abbott’s desperate reassurances that Warrnambool does welcome all types of tourists, after all, may not be enough to undo the damage already caused.

On the flip side, positive word of mouth has been attracting significant numbers of budget travellers to public reserves in nearby areas such as Panmure, Hawkesdale, Cobden and Lismore.

The small settlement of Hawkesdale to the north of Warrnambool appears more than happy with the contribution the visitors are making, with the Hawkesdale and District Development Action Committee saying it was “keen for the campers to keep coming”.

The group’s secretary, Frank Huglin, told the Age newspaper that there had been “significant growth of free campers” in the town’s Apex Park and it was keen to discuss with the Moyne Shire Council what more could be done. He said more rubbish bins were needed and “toilet issues” had to be resolved.

At nearby Panmure, local resident Paul Moroney said many people camped for free at a picturesque picnic spot near the Princes Highway bridge over the Mount Emu Creek. He told the Age that the site was equipped with public toilets and a barbecue and the campers – often grey nomads looking for cheap and convenient stops – caused no problems.

As the owner of a pottery studio, he was also keen to acknowledge that campers, who often stayed for a few days, commonly spent money in the township.

Moyne Shire Council environmental and regulatory services manager Robert Gibson told the Age that if free campers were not causing any litter or hygiene problems in locations away from townships and caravan parks, the council was unlikely to move them on.

“There are lots of spots where camping is not prohibited, such as roadside rest stops, where campers can go,” Mr Gibson said.

He said the council recognised that camping in free areas was becoming popular but it would be controlled where necessary.

  • Do you think the ‘grey grapevine’ can force councils to change their approach to free camping? Where are the best – and worst – places for free camping? Comment below.
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7 years ago

I believe the grey grape vine is a powerful tool as word of mouth can make or break and there are enough grey nomads out there to make a significant impression. Safe and happy travelling to all you nomads.

jim bailey
7 years ago

I have been following the Warrnambool saga closley and can honestly say it is not an isolated problem. The letter written in to the Warrnambool Standard by the CEO of caravan parks Victoria,Elizabeth White,is indicitive
of the uninformed caravan park sector.For starters she says their ” INDEPENDANT SURVEY ” reports that free campers spend little or nothing in towns, this is a blatent lie as all free campers know.
Caravan parks did not care when they filled their parks with cabins and took valuable income off the struggling motel industry. In fact some caravan parks would be almost all cabins if they could get away with it.

7 years ago

Surveys from other towns differ from the survey that Elizabeth White claims to have been taken.

Wendy Frank
7 years ago

Oh we’re powerful alright the word of mouth via the internet on forums and facebook groups and RV clubs is HUGE, not to mention talking amongst other travelers on the road, the damage as you mention is done and they don’t realize just how powerful our networks are through word of mouth.

Peter Robinson
7 years ago

Grey Nomad Power is considerable. Our town Lakes Entrance has just heard the message and the Shire has announced free camping at Kalimna atThe Rotary Reserve have to be self contained .this was despite strong opposition from the Caravan Park members. Remember Nomads it’s a privilege so keep it tidy.

7 years ago
Reply to  Peter Robinson

I recently visited Glenmagie . I had a little dog with me I found three not so attractive caravan parks on the weir they all returned a no pet sign. So i tried find a camp .But all I could find was no camping signes ..This has put me off Gippsland

Highway Hobo's
7 years ago

I believe that if all Grey Nomads actually banded together and boycotted Shires or towns that didn’t provide an alternative Free Camp area within their boundaries, then they would not only be very surprised at how affective our communication networks really are; they would Also see a huge economic downturn in their local communities. If only we could all unite as one, then places like Warrnambool would be begging for us to return!

7 years ago
Reply to  Highway Hobo's

Refer Warrnambool to Surat Qld, where they went down the “no free camping” because of the caravan park concerns but then the other local businesses suffered. Free camping was reinstated and now the town is back on the free campers visiting list and the town is getting some extra income..

7 years ago

I wonder if Esperance WA will take notice!!!

Margaret Corrie
6 years ago
Reply to  Peter

WA will never take notice till it is far too late..the mining boom has blown up in their face, the traveler is the new source of incomes to lonely Western Australian Towns…The rich wont keep paying out for a sheep stall which is what Esperance is..I always avoid it!

7 years ago

I not sure wat all the fuss is about if councils don’t wont us oldies then that is there right my council (wyong shire) only wants rich people and the Chinese to come.the mayor is on a mission to sell of all our land and build houses on our parks and ovals etc

7 years ago

wonder if Karratha in W A is learning yet ..
NO dump point
Very unfriendly council staff
GO TO Dampier very friendly all you need

7 years ago

There is also another little town Penshurst just north of Hawkesdale, it has a beautiful little park with BBQ Shower Toilet amenities $10 a night without power $19 with power.This is a very pretty place situated at the foot of Mt Rouse it is not far from Warrnambool, Port Fairy Hamilton & Halls Gap in the Grampians.

7 years ago

Our camp 6 book is out of date. What’s best way to go, online or camp 8?

7 years ago

Wiki Camps or go on line and update Camps

7 years ago

The survey quoted by E. White sounds interesting. When we are travelling we still need fuel and food every few days, so where do “free campers” get their supplies, if they spend “little or nothing in town”. I would love to know their secret! A quick calc, average of $100 a day and about 200,000 vans on the road, that is $20,000,000 a day, a good bit of money for smart towns.
Caravan parks do not have to get it all. Maybe they could listen to their customers and cater for all levels of the market.


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