Free camp to stay despite caravan park complaints

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The RV park at Proserpine will remain open
The RV park at Proserpine will remain open

The free camping site at Proserpine in Queensland has been extended for another year, despite coming under heavy fire from local caravan park owners.

The businesses had asked Whitsunday Regional Council whether it was fair to run a free 48-hour RV park when other businesses across the region were struggling with occupancy numbers.

A collective of commercial caravan parks in Airlie Beach penned a letter asking for clarification on insurance, Covid compliance, financial feasibility and environmental implications.

BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort owner operator Greg McKinnon said he, along with several other owners, held concerns the free RV park – which opened last year – was undermining other accommodation options in the region.

“The whole thing is not a fair playing field,” he told the Daily Mercury. “Tell the council to buy a motel as well and offer free night’s accommodation in a motel … it’s a similar concept, so why is it different for a caravan, it’s not fair.”

Mr McKinnon said his park alone drew 135,000 people to the region last year, and the letter from owners indicated the industry contributed more than $9 million to the economy.

“Let’s work together otherwise you’re going to have this freebie that sucks the life out of the town and gives nothing and then we lose jobs for our kids, we lose businesses for our future and then we go backwards.”

The Daily Mercury reports that, from June 1 to August 31, 2020, 1691 vehicles used the free park, averaging 18 vehicles a night. The tenancy agreement costs the council $25,000 for one year with annual operating and maintenance costs for the park, based on eight months of operation, sitting at about $32,455.

However, the council voted unanimously to extend the free camp’s leasing arrangement for another year.

The Daily Mercury reports that Deputy Mayor, John Collins, argued that people staying in these parks would not pay for camping elsewhere.

“The people that use the RV park are people that specially use the free RV stops,” he said. “If they’re not going to stop here, they’re going to go to Bloomsbury or Collinsville or Home Hill … they would not stop in Proserpine if there was no free RV park.”

And he said these visitors did make a positive contribution to the local economy.

“Not a lot of them are great spenders but they’re walking the streets of Proserpine and going to the paper shop, the chemist,” he said. “They’re getting their fuel and buying their groceries, so even if there’s only three or four using it of a night-time, it’s a great thing for Proserpine.”

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22 Responses to Free camp to stay despite caravan park complaints

  1. Yes 2 nights in Proserpine and 3 nights at the Petef Faust Dam
    Spent lots in the supermarket hardware and had my hair cut and coloured

  2. I would never stay at Greg McKinnon’s resort because I travel with a pet and they are not pet friendly. So how business are they losing because they don’t meet the market.

  3. No we haven’t stayed in the free camps in Proserpine. But we have stayed a few time at the Big 4 Schute Harbour. Won’t stay there again as – 1. that attitude offends me
    2. had to spend a day cleaning bird dirt off our motorhome after the last stay at the Big 4. Too much tree cover for us! and found the park staff unfriendly.
    We like free/low cost/ friendly camping and we do spend big in small towns.

  4. You certainly got your money’s worth

  5. It is a fair playing field as money is being shared around the towns more evenly. Paying c/p fees means none left to spend around the town.

  6. We stayed at the free camp in Proserpine for one night. We purchased fuel and groceries and spent close to $200 before our departure the following day. The council ranger came round and recorded car registrations to keep track of those staying longer than the allowed time. We were reminded about the COVID 19 rules and were given and requested to fill out the Registration form and place in the box upon departure. Nearly all campers filled up with water and made use of the dump point, also free, provided by the council. There were about 20 vans in the park and even if only half of those people purchased fuel and/or groceries, this is helping the local community. We then spent three lovely nights at Lake Proserpine, also free. Lots of work being done for future development, hot showers, bins in several areas and a huge wood pile for campfires are already there. Most people complied with the 72 hour stay rule but we did see what looked like a squatter’s tent well behind the wood pile. Pets are allowed. If in future, the council imposes a fee, we would be more than happy to pay for the great amenities.

  7. Congratulations to Whitsunday Regional Council. At last a Council that understands that not everyone wants to stay in a caravan park. Personally I wouldn’t stay in a Big 4 or that type of caravan park because they are too expensive and that I don’t use all the children facilities. I would prefer to spend my money in several businesses around town. Well done

  8. Mayor Collins is correct, in my experience as a traveller for the past 16 months is the overwhelming majority of free campers using free camps would not otherwise stay and spend their money in town that restrict a person the staying in a caravan park as their only option.

  9. Nothing more to say
    C.p. meet the changing needs of the self sufficient traveller. Low cost with or without power let the customer decide. Some won’t even need water toilet or shower as they have that on board.
    If they are totally self sufficient there is no need for a c.p,,,,
    Times and vehicles have changed!!!!

  10. As a grey nomad I am surprised by CP operator’s attitudes. Most nomads are self sufficient and live on a tight budget. I would love to use caravan parks but they are very expensive. All we need is basic things like dump point and water. Why not set aside an area away from kids and play areas from self contained vans? A reduced fee for nomads is better than no business at all. I think large operators like Big4 should sell vouchers that can be used nationwide. Compromise that works for everyone would save a lot of arguments. The Western Australian Government estimated in its Caravan and Camping Visitor Snapshot 2016 report that 1.54 million domestic visitors spent time in caravans or camping, contributing more than $1 billion to the state economy.

    • Fully agree Phil

  11. Congrats to the council for being fair minded.

    But what would be the next step if it becomes compulsory to pay to stay in caravan parks, then why not make it compulsory to pay for a cuppa or lunch at a cafe or Macca’s because it’s ‘unfair competition’ when you make your own?

    What if you want to drive your own car down the road rather than take a taxi?

    What if you want to wash your own knickers rather than taking it to the laundromat?

    What if you have your spouse cut your hair? Would the barber want his cut?

    What if you want to watch a DVD rather than go to the movie theatre?

    The list is endless.

    I hate caravan parks. They’re overpriced and packed in too tightly. If you don’t like your neighbour, you have to put up with them for the duration of your stay. In free camping you can pack up and leave without loosing anything.

    Majority of CPs don’t even offer a no frills alternative that may convince the budget conscious self sufficient traveller to stay for a few days.

  12. Great camp you have in town. We always used to drive past Proserpine. Didn’t know what a busy little town it was with a great bakery,pubs & Colour Me Crazy shop. Stayed 2 nights and spent $$ in town.Well done.
    31/8 & 1/9.

  13. We used to live in Mackay and visit the Whitsundays a couple of times a year, so it hasn’t been a priority to us. However, when we retire, I intend to do what some of the others posted – a few days in Prossie and at Peter Faust dam. Otherwise we would not be staying in the area & spending money there. The same goes for Bowen. We keep driving past & spend money in Home Hill/Ayr & Townsville areas, where there is free/low cost camping.
    Maryborough is another great example of how the local council has boosted nomad spending in the town by providing low cost camping.

  14. The spend in town by users of the freedom camps neads to be collected and monitored. Simply collecting retail receipts and placing in an applicable container or a resrearch form filled out will soon tell the spend benefits in dollar terms.

  15. There’s different levels of requirement by travellers. A VP can not cater efficiently for short-stay travellers. Nobody is going to pay $35+ for 4pm to 8am block of dirt. And the anti-competitive attitude of the VP is offensive – should the bookshop complain about the library?

  16. We are just planning our 3+mth trip away zig-zagging over our glorious state. Mackay for family then on up to Proserpine – yes we will use the free camp and on out to Lake Proserpine, Bowen, up to Townsville (still to decide where to stay), out to Charters Towers etc. We spend in towns that offer cheap (showgrounds etc) or free camps so we can be away for months, seeing & doing things in the various areas. If we had to use caravan parks everywhere, we would spend a lot less.

  17. Have stopped in Proserpine free stop over and enjoyed stop , have walked town and spent money at different shops .Those who want to stop in c/v parks will and then there are those who chose not to, and spend and spread the money around town and it does not take to much effort to spend $100 dollars or more in the town money that would not be spent if forced into a c/v as we would move on till we find a suitable stop

  18. Congratulations to the Council for making the right decision. We rarely stay in caravan parks mainly because they’re marketed towards families and we dont want kids hitting their cricket balls onto our van which has happened in the past. I’ll bypass a town that doesn’t have the choice of a freedom camp.

  19. A great decision by Council. I stayed there on my way north and again on my way south. I spent more in the town then what I would have on park fees. Being in such a good position it encourages people to walk around and spend. Prospering is a lovely town and if it was not for this camp I would bypass it. Keep up the good work Council.

  20. We have travelled in caravans for many years around eastern australia. We have stayed in caravan parks. Some were good value. Others would make a 3rd. World country look excellent. The could be said regarding facilities in caravan parks on occasions. We have also stayed overnight in free camp areas. Some are quite good, and others are very basic. We have travelled fully self contained for quite some years now. I guess some caravan park owners and managers do not rezlize that the word of mouth amongst travellers is the best advertising amongst travellers. Bad news travells fast. The same can be said for various businesses in various towns. Travellers these days look for value for money.

  21. We stayed there for one night and did our shopping nearby but the park was so crowded it was an absolute fire hazard so unfortunately we got ourselves a caravan park booking in Airlie Beach for out second night. I would have been happy to pay up to $20 per night for a good safe no facilities park and I would spend my money in the town as well. Caravan Parks do not properly cater for self contained campers and therefore do not deserve our custom. I normally shun towns which lobby their council for no free in town RV parking.

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