come on, wield your grey power!

Submitted: Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 06:48
ThreadID: 96232 Views:2640 Replies:6 FollowUps:4
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It concerns me to hear about another show ground being closed to camping.
Caravan parks need more competition before they will start providing a reasonably priced quality product.
Years ago I travelled around NZ on a bicycle, staying in NZ caravan parks.
They were cheap and had really good facilities. I would have a well equipped
kitchen and a pleasant TV room equipped with magazines to relax in. I was amazed how much better they were than the Aussie variety.
Caravan parks here need to be told why we don't want to stay with them.
They are too expensive and many provide really poor facilities.
Many provide nothing more than a toilet block, and when there are extra facilities they are often really horrible.
Of course there are exceptions but they are few and far between.

Perhaps we could compile a mailing list of caravan park email addresses (and small town councils too) and get them talking to us. Let them know that we would prefer to camp out rather than pay $35 for a hot shower.
Councils need to know that often, if they close their campgrounds, we just won't stay in their town. The shops will lose our patronage and their little towns will keep on going backwards.
Take a look at Tassie where there are plenty of free camping spots, and plenty of small towns which have camping in a local park for a small fee.
Their tourism is booming, the place is covered with mobile homes and camper vans.
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Reply By: Ozhumvee - Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 08:00

Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 08:00
One of the biggest stumbling blocks is that the caravan park is quite often on council owned land as is the local park or showground.
The manage/lessee of the caravan park then has lots of leverage with the council as they have a lease but the council is effectively "competing" and undercutting the caravan park, so the councils cave to the caravan park and stop camping at free and low cost sites.
Where the showground/park etc is owned and run by a show society or similar the councils then insist that the society submit a DA for either a camping area or primitive camping area which they of course cannot afford so then close to low cost camping.
The caravan park lobby/association is slowly but surely getting them all closed down.
AnswerID: 488340

Reply By: Ron N - Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 10:40

Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 10:40
Geoff - Didn't I see an article lately about how the number of caravan parks, Australia-wide, is declining? Quite a number of them, particularly in growth areas on the outskirts of "boom" regions, are closing down because they can get vastly increased returns on the property value, by redeveloping and turning the property over to more intensive use.

There needs to be serious attention paid by Govts, both State and local, towards encouraging existing caravan parks to stay open, and to raise their levels of service.
I'm not sure that increased competition will do it.

It's a pretty thankless task running a caravan park, and good paid managers are few and far between - and usually, managers merely on a payroll are less interested in providing a "quality camping experience", as compared to caravan park owner-operators.

In addition, because so many caravan parks run on a cash basis, many caravan park owners don't trust managers to be honest (this is quite a big problem, I've had a business partner who ran a caravan park as an owner-operator).

Many of the caravan parks in current use have never been properly planned, they just "grew" like Topsy. Ad hoc facilities and additions have always been a feature of many caravan parks, and councils are always imposing a multitude of operating conditions that can be restrictive.

Usually, additional funding to develop caravan facilities is hard to source. Lenders are reluctant to lend to caravan park operators. Many owner-operators source their expansion/improvements from cash flow, so the improvements are slow and often not as comprehensive as desired. Building/expansion costs are horrendous in remote areas.

Coupled with the arrogance and unhappiness of many campers and caravan owners, the need to find additional large site positions for monstrous mobile homes, fifth wheelers, converted buses, and trucks turned into campers - as well as provide a big area for tent-style campers - life isn't easy being a caravan park operator, I can tell you.

Cheers - Ron.
AnswerID: 488354

Follow Up By: GT Campers - Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 12:15

Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 12:15
well said, Ron!
FollowupID: 763558

Follow Up By: Member - Joe n Mel n kids (FNQ - Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 19:40

Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 19:40
yes well said ............
for a simple fact NZ is kinda broke and there is bugger all work over there, hence caravan parks are cheap, half of NZ's workers are here in Aussie land and as for Tazzie, it also is not very well off work wise ...........
I guess at the end of the day it is because of the "arrogance" of people that actually can WELL AFFORD to stay in places like these so called "expensive" parks that they have given up on the tourist and now focus on the better and "cleaner" dollars.
For your interest we spent a few days with a group of Savannah Way Gulf area business owners that incluided Hells Gate, Us (Doomadgee), Tirrannah Roadhouse, some from Gregory Downs, few from Burktown and others from around the Gulf area and the most interesting shift in business planning for the future is that there simply is NO MONEY in tourists any more, they simply are taking to much time and money and the returns are gone, nobody is spending anymore yet those that are on the road are very well heeled, most are looking at mining and exploration money in catering for them accomodation and food wise and that means shutting the doors to the travellers and as a traveller that SUCKS ........ but as a bussiness it is reality and we also need to earn a living, we are not alone as it is happening Australia wide.
I guess at the end of the day our caravan parks and remote roadhouses and towns need YOUR investment, dont invest and you WONT get the returns and when we shut the doors to outside people it will make touring this wonderful country a pain in the ass ... there are 4 along the Savannah Way in the process of making big changes just to stay afloat and not us as we are fine fhankfully as we dont need that line of income but the others used to rely on it ... sadly it will affect those of us that travel .......
FollowupID: 763589

Follow Up By: The Landy - Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 11:31

Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 11:31
Hi Joe

These are very interesting points you raise. I have argued for some time that there is a real-cost to free camping (blog: Free Camping – What is the Real Cost? November 28).

One of the costs of ‘free or subsidised camping’ is that over time private sector investment in short-term accommodation for the travelling public will decline, we are already seeing this through the closure of caravan parks, and also is one of the reasons many are not investing in upgrades to current facilities. Let’s face it, if the local government is going to compete with you, and subsidise the real cost of providing the service via ‘free camping’ why would you invest more money in your caravan park? And this is one of the reasons some caravan park owners are now taking action against local governments for doing this.

But importantly, government subsidies generally lead to a fall-off in private sector investment, is very inefficient from a cost point of view, and means that we become more reliant on the government to provide the facilities and infrastructure we need. One only needs to look at the government sector track record on infrastructure investment in Australia to see that the travelling public will be the loser in the long-run if we continue to ‘stifle’ private sector investment.

You are at the ‘pointy-end’ of the tourism business and the recent forum you mention highlights precisely the point, that private enterprise is now moving away from providing tourism infrastructure.

We have developed an industry that has mass produced self-contained travelling vehicles, which have readily been accepted by an increasing group of travellers; however little consideration has been given to how these people will be accommodated. It is clear from many of the discussions on this forum, and elsewhere that people don’t want the full service caravan parks provide, but a cheaper alternative. No consideration has been given to who will provide this. Caravan Parks are unable to provide it at the cost many are willing to pay, but often in the argument against the price of staying in caravan parks little attention is paid to the actual cost of providing the service or the government requirements and regulations of providing it.

And as a footnote, Camps Australia has been a boon for the travelling public in Australia, I have one in each of my vehicles, but already we are seeing signs of stress on the free camping areas listed in the books. Often over-crowded, generally unregulated, and in many cases filthy. The old adage, give someone something for free and they won’t value it resonates loudly. Is this the infrastructure we want for the future?

FollowupID: 763616

Reply By: The Landy - Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 12:04

Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 12:04
Competition isn’t the issue.

The problem is the divide between what people expect to pay, largely brought about by the fact that many travellers are travelling in self-sufficient vans and don’t need a full service caravan park, versus what caravan parks are required to provide (by law) at a reasonable cost to the travelling public, whilst still making a return on the investment they’ve made. The gap is widening!

The cost of building one site (one caravan plot) in a caravan park is estimated at around $35,000 on average. So if you do the maths that is a lot of overnight stays to recover the cost.

There are actually rules and laws around councils operating in competition with local businesses, such as caravan parks. If they open up the showground to travellers and charge a fee they are required to provide the service based on pricing neutrality. That is they must compete on an equal standing with the local caravan park when pricing the facility. And this is fair, otherwise councils could drive many well run and operated enterprises out of business. For example, the cost of insurance must be assessed on a stand-alone basis, and not apportioned from the councils overall insurance costs, this makes a huge difference. Pricing neutrality has come up in Tasmania in recent times, and is possibly one reason why you will see more showgrounds close the gate to caravanners’ in the future.

They’ll be many mixed views on this topic, but what is being asked for is a subsidy from local rate-payers. Some towns may be willing to do this to attract the custom of this travelling group, but I’m not so sure that on average (there will be examples of where it works well!), but on average, where the pay-off works for the local community. The reason many travellers want this subsidy is to reduce their travel costs, and I get this, but this is a very cost conscious group, so it is doubtful they will pay over the odds at the local supermarket, or service station, in a small town if there is access to a larger town with the two major supermarket chains, or a town that has price tension from a number of service stations.

The long-term risk is that more caravan parks will disappear and you’ll end up being dependent on local authorities to provide for the tourism infrastructure, something government agencies don’t usually do too well.

AnswerID: 488363

Follow Up By: Rockape - Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 19:59

Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 19:59
you have said exactly what happens.

Gone are the days where a park can just power a site and put in a tap. Now they have to have curb and channeling, proper drains for grey water, sealed roads and all the workplace health and safety in place.

Good instance is a small place called Guthalungra where I have pulled up for years to get a cuppa and have a chat. The servo used to supply the toilets for the rest area opposite until recently with the QLD government paying for maintenance and cleaning. They had enough of the free campers stealing the hand cleaner, toilet rolls and hand towels. I have asked before what these people put into the local community and the answer was, maybe a can of soft drink or a packet of chips twice a week.

Now the Qld government have built a toilet block for all to use that is FREE. Nothing is free so when people complain about rates, taxes and costs I hope they have a think about it

It seems everyone wants to do it for free but I wish they would realise what the total cost is to a region.

FollowupID: 763591

Reply By: P2D2 - Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 18:03

Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 18:03
Who cares what they close, you find another town or location. If they don't provide reasonable priced caravan parks you pass through or find another town or place they do. I don't use caravan parks at all and never have a problem finding good free places to park overnight or for a time. The NSW CCIA is the biggest culprit getting showgrounds and other free camps closed. The NSW CCIA nearly full time job is getting free or low cost RV parking places closed. The NSW CCIA was responsible for getting NSW National Park fees more than doubled under the bull manure of 'competitive neutrality'. How many NSW National Parks have hot showers and power.
AnswerID: 488396

Reply By: Croozerute - Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 19:57

Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 at 19:57
so let me get this straight?
you want everything? all the facilities in the world, but you don't want to pay for it?

let me know how ya go with that.
AnswerID: 488409

Reply By: Member - Peter M (QLD) - Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 08:03

Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 08:03
I suggest that each time you stay at a show ground or free park that you write to the local Mayor and thank them. Tell them how long you stayed and how much you spent in their area. Not just a total figure but break it down.
The letters are read into council minutes.
This would counter the caravan park lobby
AnswerID: 488428

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