Caravan parks - a thing of the past?

Submitted: Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 15:45
ThreadID: 75876 Views:6763 Replies:9 FollowUps:7
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This was posted on the ABC website and I would imagine it would be if interest to many people here...

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The State's South West has long been a prime holiday destination for local, national and international visitors.

Tourists are spoiled with an abundance of accommodation options including hotels, apartments, resorts and caravan parks.

But, despite their increasing popularity as people hunt for cheaper alternatives and reasonably priced family holidays, it seems the future of the humble caravan park is under threat.

More and more park owners are opting to sell up or redevelop their land.

The Chief Executive of the Caravan Industry Association of WA, Pat Strahan, says more than 20 caravan parks have closed in WA in the last 15 years.

Busselton Shire President Ian Stubbs says Busselton has felt the impact.

"In the last 5-10 years we've seen about five caravan parks disappear to be replaced by more intensive tourism development and I believe the State Government is concerned the parks may be a thing of the past if we don't do something to preserve them."

The owner of the Mandalay Holiday Resort in Busselton, Clive Johnson, says caravan parks have a low turnover compared to the value of the land.

"At the moment with the high rate of tax that we pay some of these caravan parks are just not viable to run as such."

"We saw the disappearance of the Vasse Caravan Park and Acacia Caravan Park and a lot of those have disappeared because you can fill the land with strata title units and then you're using other peoples' money to buy into the development and it's actually quite profitable for a developer to do that."


The Busselton Shire Council is trying to figure out how it can maintain caravan parks into the future.

A draft Tourism Planning Strategy was put before the Council in November which proposed to establish designated caravan park zones as opposed to tourism park zones in order to restrict development on the sites.

However, the Council refused to support the proposal saying it would not be fair on park owners as Mr Stubbs explains.

"For owners it could result in a significant drop in the value of their property."

"Obviously, with rezoning other use potentials of a tourism site, that block of land would be regarded more valuable than a block of land that could only be used for caravan park purposes."

Mr Johnson says it is important that parks remain viable.

"As supply and demand rises and falls within the tourism industry we need that flexibility to be able to change the method of tourism to suit the market at the time."

In January, Busselton Shire councillors agreed to allow the rezoning of land to remain voluntary.

However, Ian Stubbs says the shire is aware of the real need to save dwindling caravan park numbers.

"We may lose another couple of caravan parks but we're also hoping the state government will provide some incentives through land tax concessions to encourage people to continue to operate their caravan parks".

Mr Johnson says WA is the only state in Australia that forces park owners to pay land tax.

He says that costs him around $80,000 a year.

"All the other states have got zero land tax because they could see that it was creating quite a loss of caravan parks up and down their coast."

"If you're to keep it as a caravan park we need to have some incentives, because the caravan park aspect of it has quite a low turn over for the value of the land."

The State's Treasurer Troy Buswell was contacted for comment.
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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 16:23

Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 16:23
No reason why councils can't get into maintaining their own bare-bones, yet neat and tidy van parks (4 star van parks are a whole 'nuther story) - other places over there do it - some of the small ones are adjacent town ovals (Doonybrook as I recall). We couldn't work out why Capel didn't have van park facilities at their oval - seemed they would get plenty of vanners who didn't want to be squeezed into the crowded mainstream parks in the big towns nearby. A strange business is that interface between tourism and councils - two sizeable regional towns over there had scruffy run down van parks that even their tourist offices wouldn't recommend - very odd - you'd think they'd put a bomb under the management.
Councils eveywhere probably do little van hosting because they haven't had to yet - they soon will, it would seem :-o).
AnswerID: 403271

Follow Up By: Member - Graham H (QLD) - Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 17:08

Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 17:08
Busselton do that The Kookaburra van park has 3 locations close to the waterfront, Is cheap and well maintained. Is owned by the Council we were told.

They do their best to cater to groups and put them together in one location while using the others for casual vanners..

We stayed 3 weeks there and it was great. Did all the Margaret river trips from there
We had a site next to the old cemetary. Wonderful neighbours, they never disturbed us with parties or noisy kids.


FollowupID: 672761

Follow Up By: Gazal Champion - Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 17:45

Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 17:45
Hi Darian, It seems that show grounds set up for campers are the bain of the commercial caravan park operators asthey usually offer a cheaper alternative.

Friends of ours were managing a park in QLD for a big van park company and the management at head office put in a complaint to the local council, where our friends were managing the park, about the local pub allowing vanners to camp out the back of the pub for a night or 2. Upper management excuse was that they were missing out on a hundred bucks a week. BUT THE BUGGERS WERE FULL UP EVERY NIGHT!!!.

A toe up the tail for that idiot would definitely be in order. No wonder people dont want to use some van parks when they have that attitude and want to jam us in like sardines.
Regards, Bruce.

PS. this mob has van parks all over QLD.
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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FollowupID: 672762

Follow Up By: Maîneÿ . . .- Tuesday, Feb 09, 2010 at 22:45

Tuesday, Feb 09, 2010 at 22:45
The Kookaburra caravan park rates go up drastically at peak times, I lived there a few years ago for a few months in early summer and was told the rates were going to go up for the xmas period to the point where it was cheaper to rent a flat for a few months, which I did.

It's a very well run park with well maintained facilities too and with the free gas campers kitchen too.

The other side of the old cemetry is a great hotel with entertainment and the food is good too.

Maîneÿ . . .
FollowupID: 672989

Reply By: Gazal Champion - Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 17:56

Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 17:56
The white shoe brigade are busy buying up caravan parks in strategic locations and turning them into resort style accom. or turning them into retirement villages.

Nice little van park we stayed in on Phillip Island back in 06 had their permanent residents served with notices to quit the afternoon that we arrived. They were given 6 months notice which I suppose was fair, but one older lady who had lived there a long time was fairly traumatised. I don't know what she would have done but lets not have anybody stand in the way of some coot making a squillion.

This lifestyle we lead is slowly being whittled away, Pretty soon you will need a permit to pull up on the side of the road just to boil the billy.
Ahh that feels better now that I've got that off my chest.
Cheers, Bruce
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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AnswerID: 403288

Reply By: Member - Kevin B1 (WA) - Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 20:34

Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 20:34
I can see a real problem developing for caravaners in the near future with so many caravan parks closing and the first of the baby boomer generation just starting to retire. I myself am one of the early Baby Boomers and I believe there is a lot of money tied up in this generation with most eager to spend the kids inheritance. I would think anyone with a decent caravan park is set to make a good dollar in the near future. We are mostly from a generation who left school, went straight into the workforce, married and had the kids early in life. This meant the kids are of your hands by the time you were 45-50 years old leaving both to work and DINKS. My thoughts are that the Boomers will create an industry that will benefit towns and business in their travels and Caravan Parks, those that are left will do very well. I know where my money would be if I were a few years younger.
AnswerID: 403310

Reply By: Motherhen - Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 21:17

Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 21:17
I agree that Councils have a responsibility to see that tourists are adequately catered for, as some Councils do in small inland towns where private caravan parks would not be viable.

I do not blame park owners for making the best business decision for themselves. Trying to force them to stay as such, or encourage them as outlined in the initial post will have unforeseen consequences.

It is also an opportunity for Councils to discover what Tasmanians have know for a long time, and we found Shires in Queensland equally as enlightened. Provide free or low cost camp grounds, and the money will flow into businesses in the towns. Of course not everyone wants campgrounds with few amenities, but those wanting to holiday on the coast will have to pay the price like they do on the east coast.


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AnswerID: 403318

Reply By: jezza68 - Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 22:54

Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 22:54
What we noticed with QLD Parks was the practise of building small units and cabins around the pool area. These parks were then renamed "resorts". But what was obvious was the surrounding areas were full of caravans and tents being charged $50-60/nt. The caravaners being charged top dollar for very little, had to walk past row upon row of empty "resort" accomodation to access the pools and rec areas.
Why? Because some stupid accountant has suggested "value adding" charging people the same prices as a 5 star hotel to stay in what is still a van park!! And when the cabins are only 40% full during the peak season just up the van fees to make ends meet.
AnswerID: 403340

Follow Up By: Road Warrior - Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 23:30

Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 23:30
Heh, the Mandalay holiday park in Busselton, whose owner is quoted in the article above, charges $76/night for a TENT site during peak. "Oh but it has it's own private ensuite" Yeah whatever. No tent patch on the ground is worth $76 a night, I don't care where it is. Looks like the same problem as you pointed out.
FollowupID: 672821

Follow Up By: Gazal Champion - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 13:29

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 13:29
Hi Jezza and Road Warrior,
Well guess what, my brother and I, both baby boomers and owners of a caravan (me) and imported motor home (brother) have decided to shelve the trip around the block because of the blatant exploitation we continually read about with regard to food fuel and accom in WA and several points in between. We plan on tripping together with the girls and we figure there are plenty of places we can go without getting ripped off. Lets face it, WA beaches have no more to offer than east coast beaches. I live near Port Macquarie in NSW and in the height of the holiday season, on 10 kilometers of beaches there would be no more than a couple of hundred people, virtually deserted by city standards. How many more people our age are starting to think the same. Watch the ripple become a sunami.
Regards, Bruce
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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FollowupID: 674412

Reply By:- Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 23:02

Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 23:02
One door closes another opens. I can see an opportunity emerging here for owners of rural land in any area, to offer caravan parking along with farmstay attractions. These locations would only be suitable for the fully self sufficient vans on a "leave nothing except your tyre marks" agreement and stay at your own risk and take full responsibility for your own decisions. I live on a few rural acres in the middle of the Peel Region south of Perth WA and may need to further explore this opportunity, especially if governments start attacking baby boomers with heavier taxes and meaner means testing, but thats another story. Happy Days Pauper.
AnswerID: 403342

Follow Up By: Gazal Champion - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 13:47

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 13:47
Just watch the caravan park industry and the enviro nazis get to work on that idea!
I personally think that that is the best idea and would give farmers and land owners a means of return not strangled by drought and other uncontrollable factors. I really hope that it comes about, but the WA government, mainly via its bureaucrats, have already put many land owners on notice as to compulsory acquisition of land along the WA coast. There have been many docos about it it seems every time a farmer finds a clever way to supplement their incomes someone objects. Regards, Bruce.
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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Reply By: Member - Roger B (VIC) - Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 23:25

Monday, Feb 08, 2010 at 23:25
Rolled into Nebo last Winter, heading North, and there was only one grotty looking caravan park. Then we spotted a couple of ;vans in the Showgrounds so motored in there. Sign at the entrance said to contact Council before 5pm. Bad luck, it was 5.30. While we were talking on the UHF, a bloke from the Council (so he said) said just roll in. It'll be fine. Everyone else does.There was an equestrian event of some sort going on, and there were little camps and little campfires everywhere. All neat and tidy, all quiet and well behaved. Great hot showers, and next morning as we left, we discovered there was power available too. It's in the memory bank for future trips. Cheers.

Roger B....
AnswerID: 403346

Follow Up By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010 at 12:12

Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010 at 12:12
Indeed Roger re Nebo - found the same ourselves on a Sunday night in 07 - a great camping spot, tons of room, bit of shade - but amenities ? Now you tell us !:-o) .....(we were 'over in the trees' closer to the highway - keeping clear of the horsy people left over from a weekend event - didn't want to get trampled).
FollowupID: 673075

Reply By: Member - Oldbaz. NSW. - Tuesday, Feb 09, 2010 at 17:46

Tuesday, Feb 09, 2010 at 17:46
Rarely have I anything positive to say about our local Council, but credit where
it is due. They closed the paying caravan park in our little town, very dismal
facilities anyway & prone to long stay folks who treated it like a tip. Anyway,
on the creek at the bottom of town they now allow you to camp for free, up
to 48 hours. Lovely scenery, toilets, cold showers & grass. Of course there are
now folks there every night, who wander "uptown" to the pub, cafe, servo etc
leaving some hard earned behind. This little gem is just off the Hume Highway between
a large town that starts with G & a smaller one that starts with Y, so get your maps out :)))....oldbaz.
AnswerID: 403450

Reply By: The Landy - Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010 at 13:10

Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010 at 13:10
The issue is the value of the land, the capital required to support that value, and the taxes that are levied by local government as a consequence of that value.

The value of coastal land in Australia has increased substantially over the past 20 years, there is no-where ‘cheap’ to live on the coast anymore, and if you happen to own a coastal caravan park, good for you, as the land value has risen significantly over that time.

The problem is that as an ongoing business it is difficult to get the return required to make it remain viable as a ‘simple’ caravan park. As stated above, nobody wants to pay the $50 a night (or whatever) for a tent site and that is part of the problem.

Solution, endeavour to develop into something that releases the value and passes the cost of local government charges (rates) to others – in a nutshell develop into residential properties or resort style accommodation.

The loser, well that may well be the way of life that many of us have enjoyed as we grew up – holidays beside the beach cramped into a caravan or tent, and loving it!

But we can’t have it both ways, home ownership in Australia is high and almost without exception, but to varying degrees, as home owners we have all benefitted from rising property values.

Caravan Parks, as many of us know them, will be a thing of the past – the new ‘resort’ style parks will be just as expensive as other forms of accommodation….

My take on it anyway……..

AnswerID: 403588

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