QLD National Parks booking system stinks

Submitted: Tuesday, Sep 22, 2015 at 21:49
ThreadID: 130375 Views:2439 Replies:11 FollowUps:8
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Some years ago, the Queensland National Parks Service decided that bookings and payments for sites in national parks would be handled via the internet or by phone through a centralised system rather than self-bookings or registration with Rangers at a specific park. We travelled to northern QLD in July-August and again experienced the problems that this change has caused. I implore all people who camp in national parks and want to retain reasonable access to write to the Minister responsible for Environment and Heritage, National Parks and Great Barrier Reef Steven Miles, MP, either by email or via the QLD Govt website www.cabinet.qld.gov.au Also, write or email the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at PO Box 15185, City East, Qld, 4002. We need coordinated protests to try and fix this system.

For those who have not used the QLD system, you book the dates and sites that you want at national parks on the internet or by ringing a 1300 number. Payment is made by credit card and a receipt is send by email.

From my experience and talking to both staff in QLD NP offices and people that travelled to a range of parks this year, the following problems are common;
1. When travelling in remote areas, people don’t have mobile phones or internet connections. It seems the assumption is that people staying in NP’s are sitting in an office or at home! Ranger stations and other offices that are supposed to provide bookings are very unreliable.
2. People don’t know when they will be at a particular park so book for say a week but only stay for 3-4 nights. This means that many parks/sites that according to the internet are booked out, are only half occupied.
3. People don’t know when they will arrive or are delayed and need to change their bookings. NP staff are tearing their hair out dealing with these problems. (A staffer I spoke with at length said she was absolutely frustrated but could not/was afraid to object due to the job losses underway in Qld.
4. People are travelling and need to stay somewhere. If they are effectively locked out of the main camping areas they will bush camp probably without toilet facilities leading to obvious problems.
5. People who have booked a site find that when they arrive, it is already taken. There are no rangers present so what can you do?
6. The website does not work very well (I paid online but the system froze and did not complete the transaction). Also, the NP staffer told me not to use a mobile phone as the call could cost $10-20 due to waiting times. If an overseas traveller traveller is using a credit card to book 1-2 nights, it could cost more in bank fees than the camping cost.

Premier Palaszczuk has said often that her government will listen to the people so this is a chance to talk to the QLD government and tell them to go back to first in, best dressed policy.

What to do? If you have had personal experience good or bad with the new Qld system please add your comments to this post. If you feel strongly about the matter, I encourage you to write or email as discussed above.
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Reply By: vk1dx - Tuesday, Sep 22, 2015 at 22:13

Tuesday, Sep 22, 2015 at 22:13
Luckily we have been to where we wanted to go in QLD so not going back for any camping. We don't have smart phones so no internet after we leave home.

Phil
AnswerID: 590622

Reply By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Tuesday, Sep 22, 2015 at 22:44

Tuesday, Sep 22, 2015 at 22:44
Number 5 unfortunately
AnswerID: 590625

Reply By: Idler Chris - Tuesday, Sep 22, 2015 at 23:02

Tuesday, Sep 22, 2015 at 23:02
I have written to the QLD government several times over the years and they are not interested in any criticism of their system. They have very thick hides. A couple of years ago our 4WD club had several extended trips through QLD all of which experienced the issues to which you allude. The Club wrote to the QLD Government but their reply was a platitude, so writing to them is a waste of time.
The Four Wheel Drive Club of Queensland has as the first sentence on their web site
"Four Wheel Drive Queensland's purpose is to represent our member clubs and their members. We endeavour to seek and promote positive outcomes for the greater four wheel driving community in Queensland."
This organisation is a joke. They have had years to fight this cause but nil result. The same system was introduced in Victoria and did not last long in the more remote Parks after submissions from FWD Vic.
Our consumer protection laws are the only way I can see to effect change. What QLD Parks want consumers to do is book and pay for a service which
a. may not be suitable for purpose because all camp setups are different. For example you have a RTT (roof top tent) and you cannot get to you designated campsite because of bollards so you are forced to setup your camp site in the carpark.
b. you may not be able to get there because of changed circumstances (weather, breakdown, fire bans, road closures etc)
c. it may be unavailable as it is already occupied
d. use a phone system where the phone cost could be well in excess of the camp fees because they have an inefficient system
e. has no system of refund should you not get what you have paid for.
I have even seen a park closed, but their booking system still accepting bookings.
If any private organisation behaved in this way some government agency would have them in court very quickly and with big fines.
The solution as I see it is for someone who gets fined for non compliance to take the matter to court and get the Court to throw their fines out and hopefully with costs. If it is a visitor to this site post it on the Forum and lets see if we have a lawyer who is also a four wheel driver and wants to have some fun at the expense of the QLD government. If no lawyer comes forward I would think asking for $5 from everyone would elicit enough funds to fund this court fight with some left over for a donation to R.F.D.S.
Often when you attend Four Wheel Drive and/or Camping Shows the Queensland Government quite often have a stand to promote tourism in Queensland. I always tell them I would love to tour QLD but booking system is unworkable. I travel for the enjoyment not to get into fights with others. Their answer is always the same that they have not heard of any others with complaints, bu....t.
What other people think of me is none of my business.
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AnswerID: 590626

Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 13:39

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 13:39
"If any private organisation behaved in this way some government agency would have them in court very quickly and with big fines."
Maybe people that have had these issues should report QPWS to the ACCC with all relevant details ??
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Follow Up By: garrycol - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 14:14

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 14:14
Exactly - the Qld NPs are not exempt from Australian Consumer Law - if you do not get the service promised then action can be taken - for sure easier said than done but if it happened the system would soon take note.

If you have paid for a site and it is taken by someone else and there are no rangers around to rectify the situation you should be entitled at a minimum a refund - no refund then refer the issue to the consumer advocates like the ACCC and consumer affairs.
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Follow Up By: Member - PhilD_NT - Thursday, Sep 24, 2015 at 13:33

Thursday, Sep 24, 2015 at 13:33
If paying by Credit Card you may be able to complain to them that the service wasn't provided as paid for and have them reverse the charges. Not all cards/banks may do this.
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Reply By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 06:50

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 06:50
Totally agree! It is absurd to be required to know individual campsites to be able to book and to tour with very prescriptive timings. I have raised the issue with NP but got a disinterested reply.

Even worse in some other states they are introducing the same system using QLD as an excuse.

NPWS are only interested in deterring visitors completely so that they do not have to do upkeep and can reduce workforce. National parks are supposed to be conservation zones not total preservation to the exclusion of everything else.

I try to avoid camping in NP but unfortunately I believe this plays into their hands as that is exactly what they want.

Alan
AnswerID: 590628

Reply By: Hoyks - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 07:36

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 07:36
I did Cape York last year, which was my 1st experience with ParksQ.

I complained then because it was rubbish. A clunky system that had more errors than times it actually worked.
2 months before departure I spent hours plotting out a route for 2 families to camp and explore, all the way to Bamaga, this locked in a bunch of camp sites for 2 vehicles and 8 people.
The day before departure my friends son was loaded into an air ambulance and sent to Newcastle for emergency surgery, so plans changed rapidly.
The night before we left I jumped on the computer and did battle with ParksQ and a lot of the stops we had planned were cut away. This lock on camp sites probably stopped other people booking in and caused them to have to make other arrangements and get a refund on a weeks worth of camping fees.

One that was set in stone was Hann River Crossing, I had been told this was popular and was marked down as almost solidly booked the day we were traveling through.
When we got there though, out of the 22 or so camp sights... there were 3 other vehicles.
I did also come across 'squatters' that were camped at a remote camp site we were booked into. They assured us we were in the wrong spot and that they had booked and paid, but when I produced the permit they quietly packed up and moved. A well spoken couple with new camping gear bolted onto a brand new Prado, so they could have afforded the $15 camp fee, but chose to free camp as the chances of getting caught by a Ranger are around zero.

So rather than pushing the 'The system sucks and should be fixed' approach, try writing and telling them that they are loosing money as the parks are under utilised. Governments are addicted to the $$ and put that above actually providing services to the public.

AnswerID: 590631

Follow Up By: vk1dx - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 09:05

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 09:05
All good mate. One point though and it happened to us. We don't "live" on the internet and in fact sometimes don't even bother to take our mobile phone with us. It isn't even a smart phone and the satellite phone isn't either. So we can weeks in some remote place without any way of booking let alone knowing that the system is in play. And unless you are "in the know" some people wouldn't even know that you need to book.

The kids can look after themselves and both our siblings have passed away so the only worry is the house. It's insured.

The couple above being well spoken and with a brand new car and gear - I wonder if they even knew it was obligatory to book.

But I get your point about "squatters".

Phil
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Reply By: Grumblebum and the Dragon - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 08:23

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 08:23
I totally agree - its a burocratic nonsense
AnswerID: 590633

Reply By: Kenell - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 11:13

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 11:13
Yes - nothing new in this unfortunately. Our experience was mainly in Lakefield NP a month or two ago. When we saw it we would love to have spent more time and camped / explored the area but it was just too hard. We even went to the ranger station which was unattended and the screen used for bookings was not working - apparently "the system" spends more time down than up. The penalties for camping without booking are measured in "units" and without a copy of the act with me (I knew I had forgotten to pack something) I didn't know the current worth of a unit.
I am not one who needs to camp for free - I can afford to pay and happily do when we feel the need to or like a place. If the opportunity was available to purchase a "Parks Pass" for the duration of the trip - say 1 month or 3 months or whatever I would happily do so. Attach it to the windscreen and accept camping spot availability on a first in best dressed basis. Lakefield NP was virtually devoid of campers when we went through and the system you speak of was the topic of conversation everywhere people congregated.
Maybe the new premier is true to her word and will be prepared to investigate change. Qld needs every buck it can get in the face of the mining downturn and tourism is the obvious opportunity. We don't all stay 5 star and go to the reef so perhaps they need to think outside the square if they want to get some money from campers. You have inspired me to write to her and offer some thoughts.
Ken
AnswerID: 590638

Follow Up By: Kenell - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 16:51

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 16:51
My epistle to the premier has been sent. Probably 2 hrs I won't get back but if enough people can find the time - you never know. No brick bats just suggested better ways of catering for what will continue to be a growing number of us who stay in Oz while the $ is down. If the Qld Government aren't trying to capture more of the baby boomer $ they need their collective backsides kicked until their noses bleed.
Ken
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Reply By: ken triton - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 15:06

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 15:06
How frustrating is this I know so many people that feel the same, but the people that make the decisions either don't want to know or don't want to listen. I think the only way they will listen is if there was a concerted effort by 4WD Clubs, Caravan & Motor home clubs that represent 1000,s of members to start complaining on mass. I think we all know the problems but not the best way to get some action.
Ken
AnswerID: 590648

Reply By: outback epicurean - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 19:57

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 19:57
Thanks for your support. I agree its a hard thing to change but just ignoring the problem will not help. remember dripping water and stone.

Please please please write and email the Premier and Minister as shown above to express your concern.

cheers
AnswerID: 590655

Reply By: KevL64 - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 20:28

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 20:28
So what did all you folk do back in the good old days, before bookings were possible and you registered at each park?
You had no way of knowing if there were any sites available until you arrived, to find the camp ground full.
I bet you all whinged then too.

The webpage for each park has info regarding the campsite suitability. If you arrive with a caravan at a tent only ground it's your own fault.

What you all seem to want is an open slather/ first in first served approach that simply won't work. Self registration only works in low use parks.
AnswerID: 590656

Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 21:43

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 21:43
Kev that is what everyone is talking about. It is obviously the very popular places at holiday times that need a booking system not the more remote places.
What other people think of me is none of my business.
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Follow Up By: outback epicurean - Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 22:00

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2015 at 22:00
Actually, that system in the good old days worked pretty well, first in best dressed. The problem now is that there are a lot of empty camp sites in supposedly "booked out" parks. The same number of people are still travelling, just not camping in the areas available, probably on the side of the road when a NP site is available!

We are expected to book sites 3 mts in advance from 3000 km away and a lot of things can happen in the meantime.

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Follow Up By: Kenell - Thursday, Sep 24, 2015 at 10:04

Thursday, Sep 24, 2015 at 10:04
Kev,
You have missed the point unfortunately. My experience relates only to Lakefield NP. It is 340km NW of Cairns and it is 5370sq km in area. When I passed through it and visited several of the camping sites they were all vacant. Why? Everyone was camping at Musgrave Roadhouse where you needed to take a ticket to sneeze. We all arrived there on a first in first served basis and paid the nominal fee. The topic of accessibility to Qld NPs was more popular than 4x everywhere we travelled. The process to book when travelling is harder to follow than a feral shopping trolley and the system is frequently down. Everywhere I camp in Oz is a first in best dressed arrangement. Hard to argue that it doesn't work. Lakefield is well maintained from what I saw and still empty. Very clearly the current system is inefficient and anything but customer friendly.
Ken
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FollowupID: 858706

Reply By: Michael H9 - Thursday, Sep 24, 2015 at 14:03

Thursday, Sep 24, 2015 at 14:03
From a business point of view, they probably don't want to change the system. I doubt that the money collected by rangers would cover the man hours required to do the collecting, and they can use the existing rangers on other jobs. Meanwhile, they have a low cost, possibly free internet site taking money from well meaning campers to at least provide some income that doesn't need wages spent to collect it. The net result for them probably dwarfs the income they may be missing.

The best solution in my opinion is a season pass similar to the SA Desert Parks Pass but I don't have all the figures the bean counters have. Sometimes what appear to be dumb systems are in place because they maximize the nett result.
AnswerID: 590701

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