Freedom Camping Abuse

Submitted: Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 12:44
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A recently created RV Friendly Town scheme campsite near the Gwalia Museum (Leonora, WA) is FREE for SELF-CONTAINED vehicles only. Unfortunately, non-conforming vehicles are abusing the privilege and when confronted by Council staff, the RVers become argumentative and even abusive, eventually leaving the site but at the same time spreading the message via social media that Leonora/Gwalia is not the place to visit because of ‘harassment’ by Council staff.
Most RVers understand the rules regarding self-containment and move off without further comment. However those few that are prepared to voice their opinion are causing great harm. I feel for the staff that need to confront these abusive people. The Council has indicated that if this situation continues it will have to close the site down. The museum is well worth a visit, afternoon tea at Herbert Hoover House (past US President) is superb and the old Gwalia township/mine area is also wonderful to explore.
WA has many great spots for free/low-cost camping, yet people still abuse them by leaving rubbish lying around, overstaying time limits etc, and then wonder why they become closed! Such people think that the 'grey nomad' life is to wander carefree doing whatever one likes, wherever one likes. Some think "I have worked all my life, paid my taxes and this is my right!" Clearly it is not their right!
I'm sure many of you have met someone who has openly and proudly reported their willingness and schemes to overstay at campsites, tricking or deceiving the ranger or volunteer who is keeping tabs on the camp.Too often we hear about "this awesome country" and continue to see irresponsible people slowly destroying it.The world has changed, for better or worse, and there is a shrinking availability of a nice sites near shops in a town where we can put out our deck chairs and use the towns amenities for a small fee. Nothing in this life comes for free, there is a cost of some sort for every thing.
It is vitally important that ALL of us respect sites that are designated "for self-contained vehicles only" and don't deliberately overstay if we want to be able to experience free/low-cost camping into the future. This means no grey water running on the ground and no open top buckets or containers which can overflow. All requirements for self-containment sites are mostly within townsites, and so grey water running on the ground is both against local health regulations and stinky puddles are unsightly for the townspeople and visitors. It must be disposed of at a dump point, which is always provided at an RV Friendly Town under the CMCA scheme. Some Nat. Pks. have the same health requirements. However, I agree that out in the bush away from townsites, collecting grey water in a bucket and pouring on trees or bushes shouldn't be a problem. Even if food particles are in it, the birds, ants and other animal soon get rid of it.
Finally, it is in our interest to ring/email Councils and thank them for a cheap stop-over and also a word of thanks to businesses where we spend our $$. After all, they are among the ratepayers who pay for the benefits we receive, and like to be told that their efforts are appreciated and worthwhile. Wouldn't you like to receive positive feedback? Some local authorities do not have a lot of cash so when they build these facilities it comes at a cost.
Let's all continue to do our bit to continue our cherished way of life!

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Reply By: Member-George (WA) - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 13:33

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 13:33
Hi Jimbo, I agree 100% with everything you said. Well worth the effort of writing it. Cheers
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Follow Up By: Member - RUK42 (QLD) - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 14:03

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 14:03
X 2 Jimbo - agree 150%
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Reply By: Member - Barry H (WA) - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 14:41

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 14:41
Hi Jimbo,

Ain't it always the way that the 1% stuff it up for the remaining 99%.


Barry H
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Reply By: Drew - Karratha - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 15:23

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 15:23
How many vehicles are truely 'fully self contained'? I thought caravans, RV's etc with a toilet and shower and their own power source were self contained, but from reading above if their sink / shower water goes out a grey water outlet / hose etc into a bucket, then they are not... These sites must be only for the select few (I would imagine!)
Ps - I only have a tent....
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 16:02

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 16:02
Even with a tent, you can easily 'camp clean' and grey water can be removed in a sealed contained.

To try and ensure compliance, campgrounds set varying rules based on equipment. Yet there are still that selfish minority who do the wrong thing, be they well equipped or not.

Unfortunately making strict rules only excludes those who would 'do it the right way', while the selfish minority and non law abiding will continue their behaviour. This happens in all aspects in society.


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Follow Up By: vk1dx - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:54

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:54
Very true MH. Even with the RTT, annex and portaloo we have very little grey water. No sink - just a basin and it goes into the portaloo. Showering - what's that. Keeps the unsociable lot at bay. Ha!!

Paper plates, paper cups and cook on the bbq or fire. Brush teeth in about 1" water in a mug and shave Shave!!! Nah.

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Follow Up By: Drew - Karratha - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 18:40

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 18:40
Yes, I realise that we can camp clean, but by the sounds of it if we had a porta potti, and the kitchen sink emptying through a hose into a 20l container with a screw-top lid we would still be turned away because it isn't a compliant grey water tank.... As I said - it seems like it is only for the select few with specific grey-water tanks... (How many different brands of caravan / RV / camper trailer actually have these installed??) I can understand the reasoning behind it - I just feel ripped off as I do the right thing, and am paying for it because of the minority (some of which who probably do have a compliant setup, but still don't do the right thing...)
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 22:56

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 22:56
Drew, the majority of places you can camp across Australia do not require removal of grey water. Those that do specify varying methods, with many but not all not accepting buckets and jerry cans, as they have seen them left to overflow. Again this is behaviour rather than the fault of the equipment.

I have only identified TWO campgrounds in Australia that are emphatic that only those with INBUILT grey water tanks are permitted. Only two amongst all the campgrounds across the nation. Quite simple, I will not go to those two campgrounds. You can read more about these via My Blog on Self Contained. Apart from these two places, even the strictest of fully self contained campgrounds accept the purpose built portable wheelie grey water tanks and what an easy to use compromise, especially if they have a dump point on site. Just wheel you water to the dump point each day, instead of having to move your whole rig when the tank requires emptying.

However I think we will see more campgrounds saying that tanks must be inbuilt, and yes, perhaps this is just a way of reducing the numbers they need to cater for, or it may be simply that Council personnel do not understand the situation having no knowledge of grey water management in caravans.

Yes as per you closing sentence, in all walks of life we are punished (in this case being excluded) because of the minority who choose incorrect behaviour. While we are punished, those doing it wrong will continue their ways. The wrong people are being targeted.


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Reply By: TomH - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 15:50

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 15:50
Keep the pigs out We thought Gwalia was a wonderful place and full credit to those who are/were refurbishing the old buildings. We went there by accident and spent the whole day there Was most interesting and the history even more so.

Was just telling a neighbor about it yesterday.

If they dont behave close it down ,would be a shame to mess the place. (and any other ) up like that
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Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 16:05

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 16:05
A very good post Jimbo; each and every paragraph.

Those few who spoil it for the rest of us, will continue with their behaviour, after those willing to do it right have been excluded when these amps are closed because of the behaviours of that few.


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Reply By: Member - Bentaxle - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 16:20

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 16:20
Well said Jimbo, I agree whole heartedly
May the fleas of a thousand afghan camels infect the crutch of your enemy and may their arms be too short to scratch.

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Follow Up By: jimbo.wa - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 17:42

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 17:42
Well said Bentaxle!!
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Reply By: Member - Rod N (QLD) - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 16:33

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 16:33
I agree with most of what has been said here. The one thing that annoys me is the statement "no open top buckets or containers which can overflow." This would rule out ALL containers including in built tanks. To allow water to enter a container there must be a vent to allow the air to escape and by their very nature vents will allow excess water to escape ie overflow, when the container is full.
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Follow Up By: jimbo.wa - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 17:55

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 17:55
Rod you're correct about the air vent but it's only a small hole so very little will escape. As I said above, RV Friendly Town campsites are within town sites and a dump point is part of the setup. Usually the stay allowed is only 1-2 days so it would be very hard to fill an inbuilt fixed tank to overflow the air vent.
Anyway, it'is easy to keep an eye on how much grey water you are discharging, and if you think it's getting close to full, nip to the dump point (which is usually close by) and empty out. If you are in the bush, empty into a bucket and toss it onto a bush or tree. Using a biodegradable detergent is also recommended. The main point is that grey water and any rubbish generated by us is our responsibility to dispose of properly. 'If you can take it in, you can take it out'.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:22

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:22
A correctly install system will have the vent higher than the shower floor. Guess who gets wet first.

I have a Blog here on what self containment really means.


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Reply By: Stu & "Bob" - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 17:52

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 17:52
G'day Jimbo,
I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying, and you get your point across really well.

However, sadly, I believe (hopefully on this august site) that you are preaching to the converted.

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Reply By: Member - Robert1660 - Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 17:56

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015 at 17:56
We have just been to Gwalia and agree that it is well worth a visit. They really have done a great job at preserving this village. Unfortunately the "one percenters" are not only causing issues as outlined here but also causing havoc at most roadside stops where used toilet paper abounds. We are constantly dismayed that wherever we stop this is an issue. Even in free camping areas this tends to make one rather hesitant to stay. I do appreciate that caravan parks can become expensive over time but the way people are abusing free camping and roadside stops is concerning. We recently stayed in the refurbished Menzies caravan park. It has excellent facilities and cost less that $20 for a powered site.
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Follow Up By: Member - Peter M (QLD) - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 06:45

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 06:45
I agree to all of the above comments.
I have a caravan and can collect grey water in a container that can be sealed and taken to a dump point. So do I qualify?
I have read in other forums that people without fixed grey water tanks are ordered to move on as they don't qualify as " SELF CONTAINED".
I have also seen alleged "self contained" vehicles leave free camping sites with water (I assume grey) flowing from their "self contained" vehicle as they head up the highway.
Grey water after a day or so is full of very nasty microbs or whatever and is just as dirty as black water.
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Follow Up By: Member - Ups and Downs - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 09:12

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 09:12
Menzies Caravan Park fees 2 weeks ago were $20 unpowered and $27 powered. A very clean and tidy park worth the money.

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Follow Up By: jimbo.wa - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 12:13

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 12:13
Peter, the drainage pipes under a caravan retain some water and when the caravan takes off this water will empty out, but it is fairly minimal given the small amount of piping. Similarly, if the water tanks are quite full, a little water water will escape via the tanks' air vents, especially if the road is uneven and the van rocks as it moves off.
Your container for grey water must be sealed as the water enters it and be retained so none can escape. An open bucket that is sealed after it's full is non-complying.
RV Friendly Town campsites are located within a townsite and must have a dump point as a requirement to qualify for this status under the CMCA scheme which promotes it. They also have stay conditions of only 1-3 days so grey water doesn't have time to become fetid. However, if your grey water tank becomes full quickly, or you are concerned about bacteria build up etc, then you can just nip to the nearby dump point and empty out.
I don't understand why people with properly made and fully sealed, fixed grey water tanks have been asked to move on, as this is the ultimate set up required. Maybe they were asked to move on for another reason which hasn't been disclosed?
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:25

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:25
Peter M; I have so far only found two campgrounds that insist the tank must be built in. See My Blog on Self Contained.

Most accept purpose built portable wheelie units. Easier to take to the dump point too, when there is one on site as there often is.


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Reply By: Joe Fury - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 11:27

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 11:27
G'day Jimbo.wa and good day to you all.

Jimbo, I don't know you or your connection to Gwalia/Leonora but you very obviously care about the negative impact being created by thoughtless people and it is sad to read that many "grey nomads" are clearly the ones abusing the privilege of free/low cost camping sites.

I am not able or allowed to identify myself on this web site, but as a local resident and active promoter of wilderness touring and camping throughout the inland Pilbara, strikingly similar negatives have come to mind, but in this situation the problem may in time force the closure of every unregulated free camp in the close proximity of the town of Newman.

The free to use gas barbecues picnic tables etc at the 'day use area' on the shores of the Ophthalmia Dam have already been abused not only by locals but also by campers be they grey nomads or just families heading through the region to some place else, the abuse comes in form of damage and litter/garbage being left behind, admittedly the garbage is left behind on the ground in garbage bags when the refuse bins are obviously full and the gas barbecues left in a filthy state once the abusers have finished being there. I have no first hand knowledge of the 'free to use' gas barbecues being left on at this venue, but the 'free' to use electric barbecues at the Radio Hill lookout picnic facilities have been deliberately left on and filthy after being used by the visitor/user.

My main concern comes from something I witnessed from the lofty cliff tops above Kalgan Pool on the upper reaches of Kalgan Creek north east of town, just last Saturday afternoon. Kalgan Pool is the setting or scene that featured in the Australian feature film "The Japanese story" starring Aussie actress Toni Collette and Japanese actor Gotaro Tsunashima, the move was shot/filmed at several locations throughout the Pilbara, but Pilbara and Kalgan Gorge and the waterhole were the highlight ~ for me at least.

Last Saturday afternoon there were nine separate groups of 'free campers' in the gorge at the waterhole, there were three camper trailers a single large off road caravan and five large 'family size' tents set up and not a single dunny or anything the remotely resembled a bush toilet, so my guess is that every single person there apart from possibly the camper trailer and caravan people were doing their business in the scrub and bush up stream of where they were/are camping. I did see a person walking down stream along the watercourse then duck into a thicket of scrub, a little while later re appear ~ probably after a job well done.

I eventually drove down from the cliff tops so my companions could capture an image or two of the movie star cliff face and waterhole before we left the area when I recognized one particular camper, a woman who had been seeking information at the NVC about access to this waterhole ~ four days previously ~ this woman and her family were one of the tenting brigade, where several school age youngsters playing with dogs, family pets possibly.

With no 'public toilet' facilities and this waterhole/gorge purely a day visit and not a long term free camp area, the crunch will come if not by the government, be that local or state it will come from the mining company that has the lease on the area, I know it will be adverse and sad for all those who do the right thing including responsible campers and day trip visitors as we will all be excluded at some point in the future, how soon is a pure guess but I know it's going to happen because one of my companions just happened to be someone from ~ you guessed it, the East Pilbara Shire Council who actually raised the health point and started a debate about sanitation and water borne contamination from human waste and all I could think of at the time was "Oh sh1t" here we go but he's right.

Safe travels : Joe Fury
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Follow Up By: jimbo.wa - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 11:55

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 11:55
Hi Joe, I have no connection with Leonora Shire or community, just a concerned freedom camper who doesn't want to see this cherished way of life doomed by thoughtless idiots. I have been an active campaigner across Oz to try and preserve such campsites whenever I become aware of threats to their existence, and also try and convince local Councils that don't have them, to do so and reap the consequential economic benefits for their ratepayers and small businesses.
I am familiar with the 'water circuit' around Newman and it would be regrettable to see in destroyed and closed. Maybe you can convince your Council friend to lobby for a longdrop dunny at such sites to minimise the health risks - maybe also lobby BHP to sponsor it plus a black water dump point?
I know sometimes we feel as tho' we're banging our heads against a brick wall but we must continue the fight or else these idiots will just ruin everything they touch. Keep up your efforts. It's a bit like "eating an elephant - just one little bit at a time!"
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:31

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:31
As we get more and more visitors. day visitors and overnighter, toileting becomes an issue and a simple long drop at key places and along long hikes will be used by day visitors probably even more than by campers.

I know this comes at a cost, but what cost can we put on our environment?


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Reply By: Joe Fury - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 13:24

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 13:24
G'day Jimbo

I appreciate the rapid comeback to my response, sadly my friend the majority of 'free campers' are screwing things up rapidly for themselves and the absolute innocent people who have never been to or seen the places being talked about, not only here but across Australia.

There is no BHP connection as such in this instance, it's the other multi national miner who may or may not give a toss about these wilderness areas in or on their leases, but the Shire guy was livered at what he saw and his seeing Kalgan Pool was his very first time.

Long drop dunnies or any other man made/fixed structures would be next to useless in a place like Kalgan's as this and all other gorges in the region carry huge volumes of flood water during the wet season, even standing native vegetation gets a hammering, I've seen large boulders shifted to a new spot along the watercourse after a good wet.

Sadly the 'waterhole circuit' as it once stood has been irreversibly changed due to the very people who might just lock us all out.

Jimbo, I appreciate your fight and passion for the bush and if it's of any consolation, I am out there too, fighting tooth and nail to help preserve our wilderness.

Safe Travels : Joe Fury
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Follow Up By: jimbo.wa - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 13:35

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 13:35
Good on you Joe - keep up the good fight. Maybe there are others out there who can add to our ranks - how about it folks? - it's quite easy and can all be done by email.
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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:05

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:05
Can someone please enlighten me as to the meaning of this term "freedom camping". Presumably it means something more than free camping? Maybe the connotation of "freedom" sends a message of "I can do as I please" and as such the term may be unhelpful in terms of getting people to do the right thing wrt disposal of waste.


J and V
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:33

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:33
Hi Val

A good point about possible connotations off the term Freedom Camping.

Everyone has their fancy terminology for what I still call, as it always used to be, CAMPING.


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Follow Up By: jimbo.wa - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:52

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 14:52
Hi Val and Motherhen, 'Freedom Camping' is a term that has taken over from the term 'Free Camping'. It still means 'camping' as such but not in caravan parks ie. it means more freedom from all the constrictions of a caravan park and is usually in the bush. Because low-cost sites are becoming much more common now that Councils etc. a charging a small fee (eg. RV Friendly Towns), the term has been coined to encompass both free and low cost camps away from caravan parks.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 15:19

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 15:19
The majority people still prefer to use 'Free Camping' Jimbo, even when they mean 'Free and Low Cost' :roll:. Only a few use 'Freedom Camping' or any of the other terms used as an alternative to Free. Other suggestions bandied about include Independent Camping, Bush Camping, Camping Out, Traditional Camping, Free Choice Camping, Off-Grid Camping. Others will have favourite terms in addition to these. I used to use Independent Camping, Bush Camping, and Camping Out to distinguish from staying in a caravan park, which can hardly be called camping now we have a fully equipped caravan. I also use Stopping for the Night when we are on tour and drive until it is time to rest.

The term Freedom Camping is used by Caravan and Motorhome on Tour Magazine (and on their Facebook Page), and they have been much criticised for it. The word Free sells magazines. Eg they splash The Best Freedom Campsites on the cover of a magazine, then the reader finds that some of them are full caravan park prices. They use the term to mean Freedom from the 'sardine can' type of caravan park, eg a nice location along the edge of a lake.

Why not just continue to use Camping? It doesn't need anything else. Otherwise we can use the correct term for a specific site; a Free Campground, a Donation Campground, or a Low Cost Campground.


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Follow Up By: jimbo.wa - Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 15:22

Monday, Jul 13, 2015 at 15:22
Each to his own Motherhen so long as people understand each term.
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Reply By: Member - Paul B (WA) - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 15:47

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 15:47
I have often wondered about the sustainability of free camp sites especially within the confines of an established town. It always seemed to me that it was a huge leap of faith that the facility would not be abused by the few such that the local authorities would close them down. I could never understand the economics of a town with existing caravan parks providing free facilities in competition to them and why they would want to chase business from people who didn't even want to spend money to stay in caravan parks, which are at the cheapest end of the accommodation option.

Generally the basis to a business case is that people are prepared to spend money. That appears to be absent with free campers. From what I've seen of the facilities in towns I visit, the local authorities are rapidly coming to this same conclusion as too many of the free campers simply aren't worth the trouble they cause. Sorry if that doesn't apply to you, but it seems to be increasingly the case.
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Follow Up By: Ozrover - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 21:53

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 21:53
Paul, I think that you are pretty much spot on, quite a lot (but not all) free, freedom, grey nomad, backpacker etc. etc. Type campers are only interested in getting something for nothing, if they are not willing to fork out a reasonable fee to camp, use the facilities etc. Then do you really think that they will spend any monies that they have saved in your particular town? I don't think so, they will spend their money at their destination, then brag about what a great place it was & how much they have saved on the way over... Flame on... But I've seen it going on for years!
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